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“The Farnsworth Invention”: A play about American ingenuity and ambition

View of ACTORS theater from the sound booth.
View of ACTORS theater from the sound booth.

The Ames Community Theater will perform “The Farnsworth Invention” at 7:30 p.m. April 5, 6, 12, 13 and 2 p.m. April 14. ACTORS is in its 68th season and is a completely volunteer-run organization. “The Farnsworth Invention” is a play by Aaron Sorkin based on a true story about the invention of the television. Sorkin explores themes of American ingenuity and competition between main characters Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff, contrasted by the frustration of life cut short. 

Mike Miller, director of the play, says “The Farnsworth Invention” will have you “cheering for the little guy” and learning the history behind the invention of the television. 

“It cheers on the American ingenuity of the television, the radio, all those things that were brought to life here in the United States,” Miller said. “And that’s who we are; we are a group of individuals who move this planet forward, even when it doesn’t want to go.” 

Miller has directed roughly 25 shows and worked on about 100 sets throughout his career. His involvement in theater was sparked when someone came into The Frame Shop in downtown Ames, where he was working at the time, and talked about their involvement in “Fiddler on the Roof.” From that point on, Miller started auditioning and began with positions in non-speaking roles. He progressed into speaking roles, then main character roles and eventually into the position of director. However, “The Farnsworth Invention” stands out to Miller in his storied career. 

“I love the people who I’ve cast in the play, many of them I didn’t know at all,” Miller said. “But they came in and I saw something and I knew what I was looking for.” 

The original director of the play dropped out and Miller was tasked with filling the role. He typically prefers to start the production process a year in advance and knew it would be a daunting task pulling everything together after a November 2023 start date. 

“I worked my butt off to get this play put together in this amount of time and then everyone else joined in,” Miller said. “And yes, they all knew we were on a tight schedule to get this done.” 

Miller expressed concern about continuing the tradition of ACTORS and hopes to pass it down to the next generation. He also wants to create more of an awareness for opportunities they provide for Iowa State students. 

“We’re an older generation running things right now, but we need to bring in younger people that have the same passion and love for theater,” Miller said. 

Theater provides a way for audience members to immerse themselves in the moment and escape the stress of life, even if only for a few hours. Miller encourages his cast to leave their stress at the door and encourages audiences to do the same. 

“In this day and age, people need to get away and just not have to worry about anything for two or three hours,” Miller said. “I tell my cast to just leave all that back, and right now you’re just doing theater.” 

Tickets for the “Farnsworth Invention” can be purchased online or at the ACTORS box office Sunday through Thursday from 5-8 p.m.

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    renate Dellmann | Apr 6, 2024 at 8:52 am

    what a treat to have you pay attention to a local event and to the Actors’ Theater at that. I wish that more people in Ames would read the Daily and get local news npw that The Tribune is no longer a source for it.
    Thank You*-*

    Reply