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Uncanny – Press Release

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Press Contact: Lucy Pollak
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ICT takes chilling jaunt into the future
with L.A. premiere of
Uncanny Valley


LONG BEACH, Calif. (March 23, 2017) — What does it mean to be human? How far will we go to live forever? The Los Angeles premiere of Uncanny Valley, a new play about artificial intelligence written by Thomas Gibbons, directed by caryn desai [sic], and starring Susan Denaker and Jacob Sidney, opens April 21 at International City Theatre. Two low-priced previews take place on April 19 and April 20.

Claire (Denaker) is a neuroscientist who has devoted her entire life to crafting a non-biological being. Her latest attempt, named Julian (Sidney), starts out as a head without a body. As Julian receives a torso, arms and legs and becomes fully functional, Claire tries to teach him how to become “human.”

The play was inspired by a National Geographic article that featured a photo of a sentient robot named Bina48 created by the LifeNaut Project.

“LifeNaut is investigating the possibility of downloading human consciousness into an artificial body as a means of extending our lifespan,” Gibbons explained in an interview. “Bina is basically a head and shoulders sitting on a table. I was really haunted by that photo.”

According to the playwright, the title “refers to the feeling that people have when they’re confronted with a very realistic robot, a feeling of fascination. But the more realistic the robot becomes, at some point that fascination turns to a kind of revulsion. They’re creeped out, and that effect is called the ‘uncanny valley.’ The play is exploring that moment.”

The creative team for Uncanny Valley includes set designer Tesshi Nakagawa, lighting designer Donna Ruzika, costume designer Kim DeShazo, sound designer Jeff Polunas, props designers Patty and Gordon Briles, and hair and wigs designer Anthony Gagliardi. Casting is by Michael Donovan.

Uncanny Valley premiered at the Contemporary American Theater Festival as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere that also included productions at San Diego Repertory Theatre, InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Capital Stage in Sacramento. The CATF production transferred off-Broadway.

Thomas Gibbons is playwright-in-residence at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, which has premiered nine of his plays: Pretending to America, 6221, Axis Sally, Black Russian, Bee-luther-hatchee, Permanent Collection, A House With No Walls, Silverhill, and Uncanny Valley which was also produced in a rolling world premiere through the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund by Contemporary American Theater Festival, San Diego Rep and Capital Stage. Other plays include The Exhibition and Homer. His plays have also been seen at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, off-Broadway at 59E59 Theatre, off-off-Broadway at Blue Heron Theatre, and regionally at Northlight Theatre, Florida Stage, Unicorn Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, New Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Kirk Douglas Theatre/Center Theater Group, Aurora Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre and many others. He is the recipient of seven playwriting fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Roger L. Stevens Award from The Fund for New American Plays, the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award, the NAACP Theatre Award, two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding New Play, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Permanent Collection was the pilot selection of NNPN’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund, and A House With No Walls was a subsequent selection. Both plays, along with Bee-luther-hatchee, are published by Playscripts; Uncanny Valley is published by Dramatists Play Service.

Uncanny Valley runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., April 21 through May 7. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 20, both at 8 p.m. Tickets are $47 on Thursdays and Fridays, and $49 on Saturdays and Sundays, except for April 21 (opening night) for which tickets are $55 and include a post show reception at Utopia Restaurant. Low-priced tickets to previews are $35. International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 330 East Seaside Way in Long Beach, CA 90802. For reservations and information, call 562-436-4610 or go to

Details for Calendar Listings
Uncanny Valley

Los Angeles premiere
of Uncanny Valley — What does it mean to be human? Playwright Thomas Gibbons explores the inherent unpredictability of consciousness, as well as ethical questions about our own mortality and how far we’ll go to live forever, in what The Washington Post describes as a “fascinating [and] cerebrally challenging” new play about artificial intelligence. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a neuroscientist works closely with an artificial being to teach him how to become more human and to grow beyond the “uncanny valley” — a term used to describe the discomfort we feel when we see electronic recreations of human beings that are oh-so-close, but just not quite right.

• Written by Thomas Gibbons
• Directed and produced by caryn desai [sic]
• Starring Susan Denaker and Jacob Sidney
• Presented by International City Theatre

Previews: April 19 and April 20 at 8 p.m.
Performances: April 21 – May 7

Wednesday at 8 p.m.: April 19 only (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: April 20 (preview), 27; May 4
Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 21 (Opening Night), 28; May 5
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 22, 29; May 6
Sundays at 2 p.m.: April 23, 30; May 7

Long Beach Performing Arts Center
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802

562-436-4610 or

• Opening Night (April 21): $55 (includes post-show reception at Utopia Restaurant)
• Saturdays and Sundays: $49
• Thursdays and Friday (except April 21): $47
• Previews: $35