Theatre Arts Students Perform ‘The Adding Machine’ March 25-28

OXFORD, Miss. – Theatre arts students at the University of Mississippi are working hard to perfect their new high-tech production, “The Adding Machine,” opening March 25.


Senior theatre arts major Justin Waters plays Mr. Zero in ‘The Adding Machine,’ a new high-tech theatre production that opens March 25 at the Ole Miss. UM photo by Kevin Bain.

“This show is very funny and most entertaining,” said Dex Edwards, associate professor of theatre and director of the play.

“There will be a lot of music and a lot of spectacle.”

“The Adding Machine” is the intense but comical tale of “Mr. Zero,” a henpecked, everyman accountant who, after 25 years at his job, is replaced by an automated calculator on the day he is expected to receive a raise. The replacement sends him over the edge and into an act of bloody retribution. The show follows his journey from trial to execution and, eventually, to the afterlife.

The play premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday (March 25) in Fulton Chapel, with encore performances set for 8 p.m. March 26-27, and 2 p.m. matinee performances March 27-28. Tickets are $10.50 for adults, $8.50 for children and seniors, and $7 for UM students with a valid ID. They are available in the UM Box Office in the Student Union or by calling 662-915-7411.

Written by Elmer Rice, the show is generally considered to be the first American expressionist play. It was originally written as a response to the Great Depression. Edwards used the theme and updated it to reflect on what is happening in today’s world.

“The brunt of the play is that people’s lives are being replaced by machines,” Edwards said. “I thought that was very telling nowadays because students are so dependent on their iPhone or so connected to the Internet. So we have added all of today’s technology as sort of a bracket around the story.”

Numerous technological elements have been incorporated into the play, all of them student-created. While the actors are speaking, they are simultaneously texting each other. The text messages are displayed on a screen behind them. Some of the actors have been pre-recorded and the video will be projected onto a screen. The show also includes a live musical performance conducted on an iPhone.

Rachel Daniel, a senior musical theatre major from Nashville, plays Mrs. Zero, the nagging and abrasive wife of Mr. Zero.

“This play shows the futility of the American workingman,” she said. “It illustrates the never-ending cycle of getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home and then doing it all over again the next day.”

The cast has enjoyed working with Edwards during rehearsal.

“He is my favorite director to work with,” said Daniel, who worked with him on another production last year. “He always has a very clear vision for what he wants in a show, so there is nothing ambiguous about the rehearsal process. You know what he wants out of the character and what you’re expected to do.”

Daniel said she is certain that the show will entertain all audiences.

“It is unlike anything that anyone in this town has ever seen,” she said. “It is such a big technical piece – there are so many elements to it. It is very entertaining and there will not be a moment of boredom.”

For more information or assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-5816. To learn more about the Department of Theatre Arts, visit