Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Writing Challenge – Live And Die By Technology


Write a play where a piece of technology drives the plot as a living being- but it dies UNEXPECTEDLY and in a big way.
Questions: How do we see this life? How does the stage change when it dies?
How are we forever changed by its life? and the loss of its life?
Bonus if the audience can FEEL the death literally.
This is an exercise. Don't worry about production costs. Be amazing
Does water spray everywhere? Is a smell emitted? Does it vibrate the whole room?
Does it cause any humans to die?


In the middle of the floor sits a robot that looks like a cross between a large dog and a small horse.  It is still.

Its owner, GRAHAM, is anything but still.  Pacing, bewildered, stopping and staring for brief moments just to check that the robot has in fact ceased to function and is not reviving. 

The door has been left cracked open, in anticipation of a guest.  In addition to pacing around the robot, GRAHAM also looks off toward the door, clearly expecting someone, impatient for them to arrive.

At last, they arrive.  NORA enters, dressed in something that seems like a uniform, perhaps of a repair technician.

NORA – Mr. Goslow?

GRAHAM – Oh thank God.  Come in, come in, please.  She’s over here.

NORA – She?

GRAHAM – It, I mean it.  The robot.  I don’t know what to do, I’m so relieved you’re here.

NORA – What’s the situation?

GRAHAM – Like I said when I called, everything was normal and then in the middle of a sentence she just stopped.

NORA – She?

GRAHAM – Ellen.

NORA – You gave it a name?

GRAHAM – Well, no, not a name.  I know it’s a thing, it doesn’t have a name.  It’s more of a nickname.

NORA – For?

GRAHAM – The serial number – LN7A30P9X.  LN.  Ellen.

NORA – Oh.  Got it.

GRAHAM – Can you fix her – it?

NORA – No.

GRAHAM – No?!  You haven’t even looked at her.

NORA – There’s nothing to be done.

GRAHAM – How can you say that?

NORA – It’s a machine.  Machine’s run their course, you get a new one.

GRAHAM – But I don’t want a new one.

NORA – I’m afraid you don’t really have a choice.

GRAHAM – So you’re not a repair person?

NORA – No.

GRAHAM – Then what are you?

NORA – A grief counselor.

GRAHAM – I didn’t call for grief counseling.

NORA – How long have you had LN?

GRAHAM – 15 years.

NORA – That’s about five times longer than this model is expected to hold out.

GRAHAM – I took very good care of her.

NORA – I’m sure you did.

GRAHAM – She’s taken very good care of me.

NORA – You’re using personal pronouns again.

GRAHAM – She wasn’t just a machine.

NORA – No, of course not.  I apologize if I seemed insensitive before.

GRAHAM – You’re sure?  There’s nothing - ?

NORA – I’m afraid not.

GRAHAM – This morning seemed so normal.  She woke me up.  She fixed me breakfast.  She read me the news.  She screened my calls.  She monitored the lesser house robots.  We were having a really spirited discussion about – I don’t remember what we were talking about exactly but it was very lively.  We were laughing and then –

NORA – She just stopped.

GRAHAM – She just stopped.

NORA – She had a good run.  They don’t make them like this anymore.

GRAHAM – So what do I do?

NORA – Well, I can take her off your hands and put her through the recycling process.

GRAHAM – Oh no, that’s OK, I’ll – I’ll take care of any of that.

NORA – It’s no trouble.  It’s part of the service.

GRAHAM – I wasn’t thinking when I called you that we’d be giving up.  That this would be it.  I need a little time with her before she gets scrapped.

NORA – Of course.

GRAHAM – I meant what do I do?

NORA – Oh.  Yes.  There are backups.


NORA – Everything.  Backups of everything.  You’ve lost none of your basic information.  In addition to the self-maintenance, part of what the LN series was designed to do was make sure all data was constantly being preserved outside the unit, stored in the home, so the owner isn’t left trying to start from scratch.

GRAHAM – God.  All the passwords, all the phone numbers.

NORA – You’ll need to read to yourself for a while.  And make your own phone calls.  You should set an alarm to wake you up.  A lesser house robot can probably assist with the meals for a while.

GRAHAM – But eventually we can upload all this into a new unit.

NORA – Yes and no.

GRAHAM – What’s that mean?

NORA – They don’t make them like this anymore.  There will be some minor translation issues.  Whatever we transfer  the data into, it won’t be her.


NORA – I’m afraid LN, the robot you knew, the robot you depended on, the robot that was your companion.  That robot is gone.

GRAHAM – I never got a chance to –

NORA – She knew.

GRAHAM – How can you know that?

NORA – It’s how the LNs are programmed.  Any and all interaction with the owner reinforces their feeling of self-worth and accomplishment.  Just by allowing her to guide you through the beginning of your day today, you made her enormously happy.

GRAHAM – I’d really like to believe that’s true.

NORA – Do you have anyone who can come and be with you?

GRAHAM – What?  Oh.  No.  No one like that.

NORA – You had LN.


NORA – You could get a pet, for companionship.

GRAHAM – Are you trying to be funny?

NORA – No.  Some people find small animals very rewarding.

GRAHAM – They die.

NORA – Everything dies.

GRAHAM – I’d have to feed them on the one end, and clean up the leftovers coming out the other end.

NORA – Yes.

GRAHAM – I’m not sure I could care for a dumb animal that much.

NORA – There’s no need to call them dumb.

GRAHAM – Well, I can hardly hold a conversation with one, now can I?

NORA – Of course you can.  The translation chips now are incredibly advanced.

GRAHAM – Does it mean that a dog has a more extensive vocabulary than your average two-year-old boy or girl?

NORA – Well, no.

GRAHAM – Conversation.  Shot.

NORA – You’re right.  It won’t be LN level discourse.

GRAHAM – Besides, it’s barbaric.

NORA – Most pets come very well-trained these days.

GRAHAM – No, I mean me.  Taking a living thing and cooping it up in my home all day.  It’s not right.

NORA – You have a nice back yard.

GRAHAM – But animals were meant to roam, freely.  I wouldn’t feel right.

NORA – They’re bred specifically for –

GRAHAM – No.  But thank you.

NORA – An upgrade to a new model won’t cost you much at all.  I could have it here this afternoon.

GRAHAM – Oh.  I don’t think I’m ready for that.  Not yet.

NORA – Take your time.

GRAHAM – It’s going to seem so quiet now.

NORA – You can play some music or turn on the TV to keep you company for a bit.

GRAHAM – I’ll have to find the remotes.

NORA – Consult the backups.  You have some nice old-school, actual physical books on the shelves over here.  Very nice.  You could crack one of them open.

GRAHAM – I’ll need to find my glasses.

NORA – Backups.

GRAHAM – Oh dear.

NORA – I’ll leave you my number.  If you have any concerns, or want to arrange delivery of the new unit –

GRAHAM – Yes.  Thank you.  You’ve been very kind.

NORA – I’m sorry for your loss.

GRAHAM – Thank you.

NORA leaves.

GRAHAM goes in search of the backups.  Finds them.  Starts one.

LN – Good morning, Graham.


LN – If you’re consulting this, I must have malfunctioned in some way.  Perhaps I’ve reached the end of my existence window.  If so, I’m terribly sorry.

GRAHAM – It’s good to hear your voice.

LN – Not to worry.  We’ll have you and the household back up and running in no time.  And I’m sure my replacement will pick things up even quicker than I did when we began.  Such marvelous objects they have nowadays.

GRAHAM – Yes.  Such marvelous objects.

LN – Shall we get started?


LN – Choose a category.

To Be Continued...

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