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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Amelia Harris just isn’t herself today.

“Today is going to be different,” she says. “I warned you.”

She sits on the scuffed black floor, calmly addressing the eager actors circled around her during their prerehearsal check-in.

“I just want to say that I might not appear to be the same person as I was yesterday, but I am. I am the same person,” she assures them. She acts serious, but the quiet laughter of her cast tells a different story. “There will be times for fun and joy, and there will be times for work and focus. And today is entirely work and focus.”

Harris, 25, is the director of “Robots vs. Fake Robots,” a play by David Largman Murray. The play is part of the Florida Players’ season, which kicks off today with the premiere of “Robots.” 

This fall, she is the only female directing one of the three shows funded through the Student Government-supported theater group. Although that’s a fairly atypical statistic at UF, where female-directed shows nearly equal the number of male-directed shows, according to the Florida Players website, it’s all-too-common elsewhere in the theater world.

“My first experience with the Florida Players was with a female director, and working on ‘Robots’ the first time, as an actor, I was directed by a woman,” she said. “It didn’t strike me, but aside from those two experiences, out of … it must be something like 20 to 30 experiences with directors, those were the only females.”

“Robots” is a play about superficiality and the quest for physical beauty and perfection, which is a quest women are on more than men, Harris said.  “So telling the story of ‘Robots,’ I have referenced the struggle women have in this country that is maybe harder than [that of] men,” she said.

While discussing robots with her cast, they referenced certain stereotypes that they used for inspiration in playing robots. They’re shallow and emotionless.

“In the end, the robots are the ugliest, craziest, most heartless things you’ve ever seen,” she says. “This whole time, you could relate those stereotypes to these robots.”

Harris attended the University of California in Santa Barbara, where she studied playwriting with the playwright of “Robots.”

In the play, which takes place in the year 6000, Earth is a post-apocalyptic, bleak environment. Joe and Sammie are two humans caught in a tale of unrequited love during a time when robots rule the earth and call remaining humans “peetles.” Joe desires to become a robot and leaves Sammie to chase his dream, and the play documents his journey going underground to attempt this transformation.

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“They’re fighters,” Harris says. “They’re tough. They’re the cockroaches of human beings, in a good way. They’re resilient, and they know how to work hard for what they want.”

Harris explained that if the robots smell a human, they will tear him to pieces.

“That’s how they are sexually aroused,” she says. She rushes off to apply makeup before rehearsals begin, dodging a gaggle of chattering theater students and random individuals doing vocal warm-ups.

Harris may claim not to be herself today, but she’s doing a terrible job at being anything but.

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