I'm remembering an old sci fi short story where all the actors in theatres are being replaced by robots. This one last actor gets his chance to play one last role when the lead actorbot ends up getting a Three Stooges “personality tape” instead of a Bogart personality tape, turning the dramatic role into something completely comedic. Feeling useless in this automated theatre world, the actor plans to commit suicide on stage - his character is supposed to get shot, and he replaces the blanks in the prop gun with real bullets.

Right towards the end, he realized he doesn't want to die, but then he's facing a robot with a gun pointed at him and… I can't remember how it ends!

  • Not the right one, but probably interesting to you; books.google.co.uk/…
    – Valorum
    Oct 28, 2014 at 20:13
  • Did it have all the great acting robots, like Calculon, Nicolas Cage, and David Duchovny? Oct 28, 2014 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


I think the story you are looking for is The Darfsteller written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. in 1955- the winner of the first Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

Taken from a review of the story:

Taking its title probably from the German word "darsteller," which means "actor," Walter M. Miller's novelette The Darfsteller is about a failed actor's return to the stage. Miller's story is about the effect of technological innovation on the psychology of professionals, and it is a winner.

Ryan "Thorny" Thornier was at one point in the past one of those actors who you see all the time on the cover of People and Us Magazines. He and his lady-friend, Mela seemed to be more image that substance, but during their run they held the world as their oyster. Then along came a company called Smithfield and everything changed. Smithfield had invented a way to animate "dolls" and project lines and emotional reactions into them through a machine called the Maestro. The dolls effect was a little flat, but they were realistic enough to convince theater owners to fire their actors and invest in Smithfield's product. Thorny's fortunes fell virtually overnight, while Mela embraced the technology and licensed her image to Smithfield. Mela retired as a young woman to a life of luxury and Thorny became a janitor at a seedy theater so he could stay close to his art. As the years passed Thorny became bitter, until he eventually decided to commit suicide. To do it he sabotaged the theater's production of a play called The Anarch by ruining the tape that controlled one of the characters. Thorny planned to wait until the last minute after the producers realized their problem, then offer his services reluctantly to step into the role, which was one of the last ones he had before his career ended, and which he was best known for. At the end of the play was a scene where his character shot one of the other characters, then a third came in and shot him. Thorny switched the prop gun for a real one with two bullets in it. He wanted to go out in a bloody spectacle that would be talked about for years. But once Thorny enters the stage he begins to feel like his younger self again. The Maestro was a very complex machine that monitored audience reaction and in the true spirit of pandering was capable of changing the play mid-stream to suit the audience's desires. Once Thorny came onto the stage the Maestro read the audience's displeasure with him and tried to write him out of the last two acts. But Thorny outwitted the machine and in the latter parts of the play realized that he did not really want to die. His old flame Mela showed up also as a special appearance, because her image was being used on one of the dolls. Once she saw what Thorny was up to she decided that she wanted to act again also.

  • That sure sounds like it! I'll have to look it up, thank you very much. Oct 28, 2014 at 20:36
  • So did he get shot in the end?
    – Valorum
    Oct 28, 2014 at 20:37

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