New play focuses on technological worlds


Michael Golamco

Suzi Starheim | Staff Writer

Plays take audiences out of their daily realities and place them in other worlds for small snippets of time. Playwright Michael Golamco’s “Build” does just that, but drops audiences into a world with which they aren’t necessarily familiar: the world of technology, artificial intelligence and virtual identities.

“Build” opens at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bratton Theater as the second new play in Chautauqua Theater Company’s 2011 New Play Workshop Festival.

Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch, who is directing “Build,” said the play explores issues of identity in a fresh way—through the perspective of technology and the creation of alternate identities in a technological world.

“You learn about these other worlds and artificial intelligences and how our identity is getting re-appropriated by these artificial worlds,” Benesch said.

Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny said for him, “Build” was the right choice for this season’s NPW Festival because of the way in which Golamco weaves technology into a dramatic narrative that feels authentic.

Golamco’s play follows two Silicon Valley video game designers, Will and Kip, as they use technology to make the world in their image.

“In this play, you have these guys who have the ability to create the world the way they want it to be, and it’s a God-like thing,” Golamco said. “It’s funny, and I think that it’s not something just for video game nerds.”

Golamco worked his way through college as a computer programmer. His first job involved building interfaces. The computer programmer-turned-playwright said, contrary to what most people may think, writing plays and writing computer code are not that different from one another.

“Creative writing and programming are very similar,” Golamco said. “You are trying to build a system that’s elegant and build the maximum amount of effect with the minimum amount of code.”

Golamco’s play takes place in a single room — a kitchen — and follows the “giant revolutions” that take place within this small space.

“In that one little room, these huge, dynamic, fantasy worlds are being constructed,” Golamco said. “It’s a world primarily of craftsmen and people who are obsessed with creating something that lives.”

Along with his background in programming, Golamco said ideas for “Build” came from his fascination with huge technological developments gestating in small spaces. He gave the examples of the creation of Facebook in a college dorm room.

Golamco said the play is approximately 90 minutes long, and while at the festival, he plans to focus on rewriting parts of the play he knows need revision. He also looks forward to the feedback from audiences.

Golamco said he wrote “Build” under commission from actors Daniel Dae Kim, of “Lost,” and Joel de la Fuente. Fuente, most commonly known for his acting on “Law and Order,” played the role of Vershinin in this season’s CTC production of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and is one of the two guest actors in “Build.”

The cast for “Build” includes conservatory member Charlotte Graham (Al), and guest artists Matthew Saldivar (Kip) and de la Fuente (Will).

In addition to “Build,” Golamco has written several other plays. These include “Achievers,” “Cowboy Versus Samurai,” “Heartbreaker,” “Pho 29,” “Please Stand By,” “Shadows on the Moon” and “Year Zero.”

“Build” will have five performances throughout the New Play Workshop Festival between Saturday evening and the closing show July 31.