‘The Murderer’: Science Fiction Staged for Real

A world in which people’s ears were filled with music as they walked through their days, staying in moment-to-moment communication through their phones with their job, their friends, their lovers, their families
A short story by Ray Bradbury inspired Christian Scheider and Tucker Marder, right, to explore the analog and digital universes. T.E. McMorrow

   It was a world of disconnection through over-connection that Ray Bradbury foresaw in his 1953 short story “The Murderer.” A world in which people’s ears were filled with music as they walked through their days, staying in moment-to-moment communication through their phones with their job, their friends, their lovers, their families. Connected, yet isolated from the world around them.
   While “The Murderer” describes the world we live in today, there were details that he missed. Like all great science fiction, the story when first published must have seemed impossible. But as the world evolves, we realize that it was not far-fetched, it didn’t go far enough.
   Bradbury didn’t foresee ear buds and tablets and the Internet and texting. But he caught the gist of the Western world, circa 2013.
   “They were almost toys, to be played with, but the people got too involved, went too far, and got wrapped up in a pattern of social behavior and couldn’t get out, couldn’t admit they were in, even,” the murderer tells his prison psychiatrist.
   Now, the actor Christian Scheider and the artist Tucker Marder have put together a creative team to bring Bradbury’s story to the stage. Less a play and more an event, “The Murderer” will be performed from Friday, Aug. 23, through Aug. 25 at 8:30 p.m. at the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor.
   The two men talked with a reporter last weekend about their collaboration. It began when Mr. Marder came to Mr. Scheider with the short story. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to read this,’ ” Mr. Marder said.
   The two co-authored the stage piece, with the blessings of the Bradbury estate, Mr. Scheider said. They are collaborating with Forest Gray, a composer who is currently interning with the noted film score composer Carter Burwell. The piece incorporates puppetry, synthetic opera, and human voice, embodied by the singing of several members of the Choral Society of the Hamptons and the Old Whalers Church Bell Choir.
    And, of course, the three actors: Mr. Scheider, Madeline Wise, and Britt Moselly.
    It is the noise of the digital world that the character known as “The Murderer” is against, not the people. “Only to machines that yak-yak-yak,” Mr. Scheider said, quoting from the piece.
    Expect the unexpected in this battle between the digital and the analog worlds, and it’s not all gloom and doom. “All the technology in the world is represented by one character, a goofy robot,” Mr. Marder, who is also the director, said.
    The interview was conducted at The Star, at a table holding stacks of newspapers and antique typewriters. Mr. Scheider mentioned an app that takes an entire story from The New York Times and condenses it into two or three sentences. Are we getting more information in the digital age, he asked, or less?
    “We want to make it a real debate. Nobody questions the incredible things that technology offers humanity,” he said. “The main character is in love with analog.”
    Both the actor and the artist have local roots. Mr. Marder lives in East Hampton, Mr. Scheider in Sagaponack. Most members of the creative team have local connections as well.
    “We all grew up in a time when there were no cellphones,” Mr. Scheider said. “We have seen both sides of it. It’s a question we all deal with every day. How much are we going to accept the virtual world?”
    The two revel in causing a little theatrical insurrection. Mr. Scheider, who is a believer in the Stella Adler approach to theater and art, spoke of the original Group Theater production of Clifford Odets’s “Waiting for Lefty” in 1935, at the end of which New York audiences joined the actors in chanting, “Strike! Strike! Strike!”
    But the two will feel artistically successful with a much quieter result. When the show ends, Mr. Marder said, “I’d love for somebody’s cellphone to vibrate, and they have a moment’s hesitation.”
    Mr. Bradbury would surely have agreed.