A PERFORMANCE-LECTURE

BY DR. LOUISE LEPAGE

Inside Robot Theatre 

What happens when robots (and children) take to the stage?

 

7.30pm on 20 April 2016

Bulmershe Theatre, Minghella Studios, University of Reading

 

Click this link for the performance-lecture transcript. (A link to the film is forthcoming.)

 

Click here for the event programme (modified for the web)

 

The performance-lecture features:

A sociable industrial robot called Baxter that/who performs, amongst other characters, Hamlet, a ganster, a street walker, a tea-drinking English lady, and a butler, as well as being concretely it- or him-self;

 

Two children who teach the robot how to perform as a human, dancing and fighting.

 

And students drawn from the Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading perform a variety of roles, from robots to gangsters.

 

My lecture articulates ways in which the robot performer, through its funny, provocative, or uncanny qualities, can reveal ways of being human in a posthuman world. 

Question: Why am I putting a robot on stage?

Up until this moment in history, outside of science fiction, robots have not had much to do theatre. However, the new millennium has brought with it technological changes. With these, robots are becoming sociable performers in our world and moving onto our stages.

 

This performance-lecture forms part of The Baxter Project, research that started from the premise that the robot is inherently a performer. Debating and showing ways in which this statement might be true comprise the focus of this performance-lecture.

 

 

Content of the Performance-Lecture

 

About The Baxter Project

 

What is the posthuman?

 

What are robots doing on our stages?

 

Performance #1

Dehumanised workers construct the robot

 

Are robots performers?

'Robot'

From automata to automation

The robot: a cognitively estranging object (and Brecht)

The robot: from science fiction to naturalism

The robot: a worker or performer?

Baxter and his puppeteer: posthuman performance

 

The Baxter Interviews (film)

 

Performance #2

Who Am I?

  1. Baxter in the City

  2. Baxter the Butler

  3. Mrs. Baxter and the Tea-Ladies

  4. Patricia-Baxter: Lady of the Night

  5. Baxter Gangsta!

 

Robots as sociable performers and the importance of empathy

 

Key ingredients for the representation of a robot individual

Movement, head movements, facial exprfessions, voice, and narrative positioning

 

The role of guided projection (E. H. Gombrich)

 

Machine-Hamlet: To be, or not to be (film)

 

Baxter's voice

 

Performance #3

The Children's Scene

What will I be when I grow up? 

 

Children, performance, and the robot

A scale of acting?

Innocence and experience

The child, the robot, and the uncanny

 

Sigmund Freud and The Uncanny

 

Performance #4

Uncanny Posthuman Futures? When robots construct a human

 

Masahiro Mori's The Uncanny Valley

The importance of the theatrical in promoting affinity for robots 

 

Q&A

 

 

Baxter Project, performance lecture, robot theatre, Louise LePage
Baxter Project, robot theatre, performance lecture, Louise LePage