The Bushwick Starr is a well-known playhouse in Brooklyn, New York, which will be presenting a performance titled “The Brobot Johnson Experience” from February 14 to March 17, 2018. The show is the brainchild of award-winning poet, musician, and actor Darian Dauchan, who has been seen on stage on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and internationally. “The Brobot Johnson Experience” is billed as a play in the newly-minted "Afrofuturism" genre that places black characters as key roles in science fiction and fantasy epics.

“The Brobot Johnson Experience,” explores a future where the “Brobots”--a troupe of hip-hop spewing androids--form a group known as “The Tribe Called Space Quest” which exists to convey a message of peace, love, and “dopeness” all over the galaxy and the universe beyond.

The show includes original music, rhymes, beat-boxing, and vocals; the performance is essentially a hip-hop concert for science fiction fans. Tickets will cost between $20 and $25.

Darian Dauchan was one part of a band called The Mighty Third Rail who became lauded as American Music Abroad Finalists in 2015 for the U.S. State Department. Then, in 2014, the band performed at SPKRBOX which was the first Hip Hop Theater Festival ever to be held in Norway. Darian recently discussed his career, his experiences, and how his love of music influenced this delightfully oddball theatrical creation.

Recently, Darian Dauchan granted an exclusive interview where he discussed the inspirations behind “The Brobot Johnson Experience” and his career as a performer.

Performances, awards, and Afrofuturism

Meagan Meehan (MM): You are a poet, actor, and musician, so which of these talents did you discover first and how do they influence each other?

Darian Dauchan (DD): Definitely an actor first. I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I majored in Drama so acting is, has, and always will be my first love.

It was at Tisch where I wrote my first solo show, so that definitely started me on the path of being a writer/performer. I was always a big fan of poetry and the NYC poetry scene, but never really considered myself a poet. But years later, I had a desire to use my down time as an actor for other creative outlets beyond my solo shows.

Plus, I also felt the need to use my voice and speak out more directly about politics and social conditions, and the open mics and poetry scenes offered a great platform for that. I was fortunate enough to have the NYC poetry slam scene embrace me. From there, I then had a desire to want to incorporate my poetry with music, so I started a band with violinist Curtis Stewart and bassist Ian Baggette called “The Mighty Third Rail.” Finally, it then became about, kind of, combing all of these things together, so that now, a lot of the work that I do and the shows and art that I create are fused with poetry, music, and theatricality. So, it’s been an interesting evolution, but I really like being able to operate with multiple mediums from albums, to shows, to now even a web series, because it allows me to connect with people in a lot of different ways.

MM: What was is it like to be at the forefront of the Afrofuturism movement?

DD: Hmm…I don’t really consider myself on the forefront. “Afrofuturism” is a relatively new term but the essence and spirit of the genre, particularly in music, has been around for decades from Sun Ra to George Clinton’s “Parliament-Funkadelic” to Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” so I like to think of it more as being a part of a legacy, and carrying the torch for something that’s very cool and different and hopefully adding more flavor in the mix. There’s actually a line in the show where Flobot Owens, the main character says “Lineage is everything, passed down from generation to generation.” So, I think that holds true.

MM: As an actor, how do you adjust your performance style to really “get inside the head” of your character?

DD: Well, it’s particularly challenging when you’re playing a robot, and even harder when it’s a Brobot. No, no, I’m kidding. It actually isn’t at all, because in this piece Brobots are a highly advanced race of androids, so they have a lot of the same human characteristics in regards to wants and needs and emotions. So, really the focus is about what the intention is or even what our hero, Flobot Owens believes to be his “purpose” and what he’s willing to do to achieve that “purpose”, which is what you often hear a lot about in robot Sci-Fi stories. In addition to that, there’s a great deal of physicality which really gets me in Brobot mode.

It’s fun to act like a robot, and even funner to be a Brobot. See what I did there? I brought it all full circle!

MM: You have won a slew of accolades, so what do you attribute your success to and has any award been especially meaningful?

DD: There are a lot of factors. I mean, you know, you work hard, take risks, try to do something innovative and different and hope that people get and appreciate what you’re doing, and when they do it’s certainly affirming. But I’ve also just been really fortunate to work with great people, and people who helped me and believed in the vision I was trying to create. For the Brobot project, All For One Theater is really responsible for getting me to the finish line, in terms of co-producing the web series, and now co-producing the show with the Bushwick Starr.

So, I certainly share the awards we received for the web series with them. The one we got at the Escape Velocity Festival in D.C., sponsored by The Museum of Science Fiction for “Best Soundtrack” was great because the statue was of the robot from the classic Sci-Fi silent film Metropolis, which was just perfect because the web series “The New Adventures of Brobot Johnson” is pretty much a Hip Hop silent film. I always say it’s Buster Keaton meets Busta Rhymes.

Plays, theater, and science fiction

MM: When did you decide to make your own play and how did you come up with the delightfully zany plot of “The Brobot Johnson Experience”?

DD: “The Brobot Johnson Experience” will be my seventh solo show.

After I finished shooting the first season of the web series, I was struck with a plethora of new ideas about what happens next to Brobot, and basically ended up writing like a bible of all the epic adventures he and his family of Brobots experience. So, a lot of the stuff from that bible is in the show as it expands and reveals more of the Brobot universe.

MM: How long did this play take to write, what were the trickiest parts of penning it, and what do you like most about the story and characters?

DD: The play took about two years to develop, but because the project as a whole is also an album and a web series, I want to say from making the music to the web series to now working on the show, it’s been at least four years.

The trickiest part for my director Andrew Scoville and I was making sure we weren’t just retelling what happens in the web series on stage but taking it a step further. My dramaturg Jesse Cameron Alick really helped us with that. So, rather than it being Brobot Johnson from the web series on stage, it’s a Brobot from the future telling the story of the first of his kind which is…drum roll…Brobot Johnson, which is a much cooler and interesting storyline. What I really dig about it is it allows an entry point for everyone and makes each iteration of the Brobot project independent but still connected to one another. If you haven’t seen the web series and you just come and watch the show, you’ll be good.

If you have seen the series or listened to the album, you’re still going to get a ton of new stuff in the show. That also means you can experience them in whatever order you want. You can go to the show, and then watch the series or listen to the album and then come to the show. I think that’s the beauty of transmedia projects.

MM: Are you generally a big fan of science fiction and fantasy and do you think people who like those genres will have a special affinity for “The Brobot Johnson Experience”?

DD: Yes and yes. The whole project was me wanting to combine my love of Hip Hop and Science Fiction. So, yeah, we really want Sci-Fi Geeks, Hip Hop heads, and adventurous theatergoers to come together to occupy the same space for something that’s hopefully fun, imaginative, and uplifting.

MM: What can audiences expect from the performance, especially by way of costumes and props?

DD: I don’t want to reveal too much, but let’s just say it’s kind of like a Hip Hop Captain EO meets Blue Man Group. I’ll also say…silver. There’s lots of silver involved and a boombox spaceship that’s the size of a Winnebago! I’ve already said too much…

MM: Have you any exciting new creative and/or theater projects on the horizon that you would like to tell us about?

DD: Sure. My band The Mighty Third Rail just dropped a new single “Single Word I’m Sayin’,” which is now streaming on iTunes and Spotify from our soon to be released the third album. And folks can still check out “The New Adventures of Brobot Johnson” at the “Brobot Johnson” website. Google us, we were just made an official selection for the HollyWeb Festival this coming April in LA!