5 Questions with Alex Knox, our Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine

5 Questions with Alex Knox, our Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine

This week, we sit down with Alex Knox, who plays Charles Babbage in our production of Ada and the Engine, now extended through April 7th at studio/stage!

Tell us a little about yourself and theatre/film/TV background. Where have we seen you before?

Alex Knox, playing Charles Babbage in <i>Ada and the Engine</i>, now extended through April 7th!

Alex Knox, playing Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine, now extended through April 7th!

I was on stage most recently as Young Ebenezer in A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory South Coast Repertoryin Orange County. The production has been running for 39 seasons and I’ve been involved in the last five (and also one other time, in 1995, when I played Peter Cratchit as a kid!). I performed my solo show No Static At All at the Hollywood Fringe in 2013. You can also hear me narrating audiobooks on Audible.com.

Check out some of Alex’s audiobooks!

Tell us a bit about your character. What have you learned about them in this process? What’s most fascinating about their personalities? What makes them tick?

Charles Babbage is fascinating! He was brilliant and famous in his time, and yet he struggled to finish many of his greatest inventions (such as the Analytical Engine). I’ve been interested in what caused that – was it fear of seeing how his creations would fare once they were actually put to use? Or was he simply too ahead of his time? I also love the letters he exchanged with Ada Lovelace. You can really see how much he cares about her in the way he writes.

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in <i>Ada and the Engine</i> by Lauren Gunderson

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson. Photo by Matt Kamimura.

Talk a bit about your favorite parts of the process, both in terms of your character work and the production in general. Give us a sneak peek behind the scenes.

I adore working with this team. Heidi Powers creates a rehearsal room that is playful and encourages us to take risks. It’s the best kind of environment for making art! The cast is amazing, and it’s especially fun to work with Jessie Sherman who’s a dear friend from my college theater program (UC Santa Barbara).

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in <i>Ada and the Engine</i> by Lauren Gunderson. Photo by Matt Kamimura.

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson. Photo by Matt Kamimura.

 

 

Who are some of your personal heroes and why?

Alex Knox as Lord Byron in Tennessee Williams' <i>Camino Real</i>

Alex Knox as Lord Byron in Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real

I’ve been fascinated for a while with Lord Byron. I played Byron in a production of Tennessee Williams’ <i>Camino Real</i>, and found it amazing that he became famous for his poetry. I love imagining a time when poets were famous like rock stars. Byron was the quintessential Romantic, indulging in his passions and lusts, and yet his poem “She Walks in Beauty” is about a very deep, almost reverent love for a mysterious woman he saw at a funeral. I think that poem reveals a different side of Byron. I love how that poem is so central to our play, too – to me, it sums up Babbage’s love for Ada.

 

Why is this story so important to tell? What do you most hope audiences get from this production?

Aside from being a gripping, funny, heartbreaking tale, I think our show is important because it gives the spotlight to an incredible woman, Ada Lovelace, who is finally getting her due as a visionary and pioneer in the field of computer science. She’s an inspiration to me, not only because she was a female in a field (and time) dominated by men, but because she looked at things in a unique way. She saw possibilities where other geniuses (like Babbage) couldn’t. We can all be inspired by her ability to look for ways to make the impossible possible.

Ada and the Engine must close April 7th. Get your tickets now!

5 Questions with Heidi Powers, director of Ada and the Engine

5 Questions with Heidi Powers, director of Ada and the Engine

We recently sat down with Heidi Powers, director of our first 2019 main stage production, Ada and the Engine, to get to know her a little better. Here’s what she had to say!

*Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement in the local theatre scene. Where have we seen your work?

I wear a lot of different hats in the Los Angeles theatre community. I’m most known for co-writing musicals (like Bronies: The Musical) as well as producing and marketing (including Fancy: Secrets from my Bootydoir) but my longest-running passion for the medium is as a director. I hold a BFA in directing from the University of Michigan.

*Tell us about this script; what impressed you and made you want to do this show?

Heidi Powers, director of Ada and the Engine

Heidi Powers, director of Ada and the Engine

From the moment I opened Lauren Gunderson‘s script, I knew it was something special. Her language just… dances off the page. One thing that dazzles me in particular is how she captures the way each person’s rhythm changes from relationship to relationship. Thematically, Gunderson hits a really cathartic spot for me, as well; I’m always hunting for the balance between the artistic and the analytical, and I love the way this play embraces both.

*Give us a sneak peek at the production. What are you excited to show audiences with Ada and the Engine?

Ada was passionate about music and its power to transport, and Gunderson’s play whisks us swiftly through decades and experiences (and even planes of existence!). So our production uses music and movement to weave it all together. Our exceptional cast is working with our choreographer, Roger Fojas, to workshop pieces inspired by the machines that Babbage and Lovelace dreamed up, and I can’t wait to share those visions with our audience.

*Share your thoughts on Ada herself. What were you surprised to learn about her?

I had certainly heard about Ada before reading the play, but I was genuinely shocked to discover that she was born Ada Byron. Yes, THAT Lord Byron was her father! I was also stunned that her mother, embittered by Byron’s… Byron-ness… pushed Ada into mathematics as a means of controlling her daughter’s wild side. While much of that “wild” side was her creativity and her fiery personal agency, Ada really did have a fiery streak… whether she was attempting to elope with a tutor, racking up horse-racing debts, even (gasp!) secretly writing poetry. She certainly was her father’s child, no matter how her mother tried to prevent it.

*Speaking of surprises, what don’t we know about you? Any hobbies, skills, obsessions you’d care to share?

When I’m not directing or writing (or doing marketing and publicity for the studios) I’m usually indulging in a new creative hobby. I find that the best way to keep my artistic juices coursing is to learn to make something else entirely. I’ve dabbled in graphic design, embroidery, lifestyle blogging and zentangle doodling, but this year I’m mastering the art of royal icing. There’s something soothing about watching a jumbled drizzle smooth itself into a perfectly smooth surface. If you visit concessions at the show, perhaps you’ll even get to try the fruits of my labor!

Tickets are on sale now for Ada and the Engine, opening March 21st!

Theatre Unleashed opens 2019 season with Ada and the Engine

Theatre Unleashed opens 2019 season with Ada and the Engine

Heidi Powers directs this unique introspective on the intriguing relationship between pioneers Ada Byron Lovelace and Charles Babbage at the dawn of the computer age. 

LOS ANGELES – While director Heidi Powers knew about Ada Byron’s Lovelace contribution to the birth of the modern computer, she was stunned to discover that not only was Ada Lord Byron’s daughter, but that she was also an accomplished poet and musician. “I love how she tried to embrace both her artistic and analytical sides,” Powers said. “I think that humanity’s most powerful inventions come from the combination of the arts and sciences.”

The complexity of Ada, her relationships and her many contributions to both of those worlds are at the heart of Lauren Gunderson’s acclaimed play Ada and the Engine, presented by Theatre Unleashed and playing March 21-31 at studio/stage in Los Angeles.

As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soulmate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge––a world she might not live to see. It’s a music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.

“When I discovered Lauren Gunderson’s beautiful script, I knew it was the perfect show to not only kick off the 2019 season but also begin the next chapter for Theatre Unleashed,” said Co-Artistic Director Jenn Scuderi Crafts. “Backed with Heidi’s incredible directorial vision, this production will be a huge step forward in our company’s artistic journey.”

Co-Artistic Director Jacob Smith echoed those sentiments. “The first I saw of Heidi’s work was a few years ago, when I saw Bronies: The Musical, which she wrote and produced, and I’ve wanted to work with her ever since,” he said. “Between the hyper-talented cast, visionary director, and the all-star design team and crew, this show is going to be amazing on all levels.”

Beyond the fascinating exploration of the short life of Ada and her dynamic relationship with Babbage, the play also features quite a few surprises, including a rather unexpected finale that promises to leave patrons talking. With this production, Powers is also hoping to inspire.

“Ada’s mother had urged her into mathematics as a way to control the ‘wildness’ she inherited from her absentee father,” Powers said. “Today we’d define that wildness as creativity, or agency, or curiosity…and they’re the kinds of qualities I’d like to encourage in all young women.”

 

Ada and the Engine

Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Heidi Powers
Produced by Theatre Unleashed

SYNOPSIS:
As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soulmate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge––a world she might not live to see. It’s a music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.

DATES AND TIMES:
March 21-31
Thursdays and Fridays – 8 p.m.
Saturdays – 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays – 7 p.m.

LOCATION:
studio/stage

520 N. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

TICKET PRICES:
General Admission: $20

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
www.theatreunleashed.org

PRESS CONTACT:
Jim Martyka
(818) 497-3701
[email protected]

Meet the cast of Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson, opening March 21st!

Meet the cast of Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson, opening March 21st!

Theatre Unleashed is proud to announce the cast of Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Heidi Powers, opening March 21st at studio/stage!

The Cast

Clockwise from top left:

* Member of the Theatre Unleashed Ensemble
æ Appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

 

About Ada and the Engine

As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul-mate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge – a world she might not live to see. A music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.

This production is presented under the auspices of the Actors’ Equity Los Angeles Membership Company Rule.

Ada and the Engine is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service.

 

Tickets on Sale Now

Learn more about the show on the production page.

Auditions for Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson!

Auditions for Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson!

Theatre Unleashed is proud to announce auditions for our 2019 spring production, Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Heidi Powers!

DID YOU KNOW…

…that the concept of computer programming was first conceived by a woman, Ada Lovelace?

…that Ada was the abandoned daughter of the poet, Lord Byron?

…that, while driven by her mother to pursue mathematics, Ada secretly wrote poetry?

…that Ada and her scientific partner, Charles Babbage, had a complex relationship?

…that Ada dreamed of a world where computers would create music?

Help the Theatre Unleashed team make Ada’s dream a reality with the Los Angeles premiere of acclaimed playwright Lauren Gunderson’s exquisite Ada and the Engine. Directed by Heidi Powers (Bronies! The Musical) and choreographed by Roger Fojas (Lucent Dossier), this not-exactly-a-musical play will include dance representations of the Babbage Engine, as well as other movement pieces that visualize the technology and dance of the era. We aim to bring life to these complex characters by telling their deeply moving true story in surprising ways.

Seeking actors comfortable with movement; also casting three singing roles. All ethnicities/types welcome for all roles.

Auditions will be at studio/stage on Saturday, Jan 19th from 11 AM-4:30 PM and Sunday, January 20, 5 PM-10 PM with callbacks on Thursday, January 24th, 7 PM-11 PM.

Actors interested in auditioning should submit a headshot, resume in PDF format, and links to any relevant reel material via e-mail to Company Manager Erin Moore. Auditions are by invitation only. If you are invited to audition, please bring a headshot/resume to the audition and come dressed to move. The audition will consist of a 1-2 minute dramatic monologue and a 16-bar vocal/general dance call.

Actors are strongly encouraged to read the play beforehand and be familiar enough to discuss the text with the production team in the audition.

Callbacks shall consist of cold reading sides and a second dance call.

Performances will be at studio/stage Thursday-Sunday nights March 21st-31st, 2019 with a Saturday matinee each weekend.

 

About Ada and the Engine

As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul-mate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge – a world she might not live to see. A music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.

 

Character Breakdown

ADA BYRON LOVELACE. Character age during the play ranges 18-36. A mathematician; a poet at heart. Curious, wry, self-aware. Above all, bright, in every sense. Singing role, any range welcome. Must move well.

CHARLES BABBAGE. Character age during the play ranges 40-60. Ada’s scientific partner and closest friend. A quietly burning furnace of ideas and ideals. More capable of dreaming than doing. Singing role, any range welcome. Also in movement ensemble.

LADY ANABELLA BYRON. Character age during the play ranges 35-55. Ada’s fierce tiger of a mother. Handles her out-of-control life by exerting control on her daughter. Hates poets; once loved a poet. Also in movement ensemble.

LORD LOVELACE. Character age in the play ranges 25-45. Ada’s proud and proper husband. A literal man, if not a particularly literate one. Content with a monochromatic life, he cannot even begin to perceive all the colors that Ada can see. Also in movement ensemble.

BYRON. Character age during the play is 36. The spirit of Ada’s late father, the famous (and infamous) poet. Charming and passionate; quick-witted and brash… and regretful. Singing role, any range welcome. Also in movement ensemble.

MARY SOMMERVILLE. Character age in the play ranges 40-60. Ada’s mentor and Charles’ colleague. Equal parts warm and sharp, supportive and practical. Also in movement ensemble.

About Theatre Unleashed

Theatre Unleashed is an itinerant 501(c)(3) Non-Profit membership-driven ensemble theatre company, currently producing at studio/stage in Hollywood, CA. The company’s mission is to embody original stories, shed light upon lesser-known works by known playwrights, and put new twists on old favorites; all for discerning Los Angeles audiences. Theatre Unleashed is an Actors Equity Approved Membership Company and produces under the Los Angeles Membership Company Rule.

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