I was reading the script for THE (curious case of the ) WATSON INTELLIGENCE after having learned about the hidden history of NASA’s female “human computers” and read about the social challenges for women in technological fields (The Atlantic magazine has literally just come out with its latest issue covering “Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?”).
So it was to my delight that Watson Intelligence immediately introduces us to Eliza, a brilliant female artificial intelligence expert who is not a one-dimensional character. We get to meet this Eliza (there are three Elizas in this time-bending production) in all her fully human glory, whip smart but ultimately not invulnerable to the risks of human connection.
Despite the title and references to all the Watsons, the Elizas in the play are absolutely crucial to the plot. I now hand you over to Kathryn Fumie, who plays the essential Elizas, as she answers questions about her role:
Playwright Madeleine George claims that “Watson” is “a play about others.” What does that mean to you?
In rehearsal, we talk a lot about sidekicks. The term “sidekick” sounds dismissive to me, but I think perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in the Curious Case–in our lives, we only become ourselves through the energy and presence of other people playing supporting roles.
Also, my character is so very opposed to letting “others” into her heart and soul. The play shows the great struggle people have to be vulnerable and to actually need people.
What drew you to want to play Eliza?
To be honest, I was first and foremost drawn to working with Leah Cooper. I have wanted to work with her since I saw a show that she’d directed in 2010 at Theatre in the Round. I would have said “yes” to any show that she asked me to be in.
What challenges are you experiencing in playing Eliza?
I want her flaws–her inability to be vulnerable, her utter/unshakeable belief in the idea of herself–to be as genuine and relatable as her search for connection and her frustration with other humans.
Also, making the common thread followable for the audience through three different characters in three different time periods is an interesting challenge.
What is your relationship to your technology?
I like it. It’s pretty useful….
I’m better at using technology than a lot of people who are my parents’ age, but I definitely don’t know how to use technology the way young people do. I’m scared to fall behind. Truly. But I’m trying to stay on top of it.
What else are you working on?
I recently helped develop new diversity programming for GTC Dramatic Dialogues. We go to colleges and universities to provide honest dialogue about difficult topics. I look forward to proliferating the new material this year.
Kathryn’s cast background:
Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Theatre Unbound: Hamlet; Savage Umbrella: June; Swandive Theatre: An Outopia for Pigeons; History Theatre: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story Training B.F.A., Performance, Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts Other Company member of GTC Dramatic Dialogues Accolades 2016 Ivey recognition for June at Savage