The play is part of the Indiana University Arts and Humanities Council celebration, Granfalloon:  A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence (see also below, May 11 2018), “Vonnegut On Stage: War, Technology and Unintended Consequences” presented this afternoon and tomorrow evening by Cardinal Stage at the downtown Bloomington John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium.  Cardinal Stage presents an evening of dramatic adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories from WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE in partnership with the 2019 Granfalloon Festival presented by the IU Arts & Humanities Council.  Staged readings will include “Epicac” (adapted by Vonnegut) and “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (adapted by Claris A. Ross for NBC radio), which speak to Vonnegut’s wariness of the military industrial complex and the unintended consequences of technological advancement.  A second performance will be tomorrow (Saturday) night at 7 p.m., today’s being a 3 p.m. matinee more convenient, as it happens, for me to get to as well as (Friday being a work day) more likely to have tickets still available when I showed up at the door.

The readings themselves were presented in radio theatre format, the first in fact, according to the blurb above, adapted by the author himself, with performers in chairs stepping up to the mike to speak their parts accompanied by a variety of audio special effects.  I thought it worked well.  The first, “Epicac,” was about a newly invented supercomputer of special interest to the Navy for use in battles, but which, due to a lovesick programmer, became more interested in poetry and love itself, transferring its own affection to the programmer’s fiancee.  Then the second, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” from Vonnegut’s first published short story, has to do with a civilian professor developing what we might now call teleportation — an ability to manipulate solid objects with his mind — and his subsequent revolt against the military’s interest in using this in warfare, having become as he puts it himself the world’s “first weapon with a conscience.”

I had reread “Barnhouse Effect” fairly recently and, as I remember it, think the adaption did a good job of presenting the essence of the story.  In any event, I’ve dug out my old copy of WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE and plan to take another look at both stories tonight.

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  1. Vonnegut was a genius even in some of his early work for The Saturday Evening Post he was able to point out things that were wrong0could be improved in the human race. To work under such constraints in this country which is so strongly conservative is impressive. The hardest part for me in reading some of his work was feeling sad about how fucked up some things are. We’re funny in how we nod our heads sagely and then hop back on the treadmill to the incinerator. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do.

  2. Yes, your last 2 sentences instantly reminded me of the end of PLAYER PIANO with exactly the same sentiment, in terms of it seeming to be a part of human nature. I did reread the originals of the two dramatized stories last night and was surprised at how different the Epicac seemed, with a stronger romantic subplot (plus some laugh lines) in the adaptation which, in that Vonnegut presumably did it himself, may represent his maturing as a writer (though also perhaps a recognition of different requirements for a dramatic presentation).




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