Philadelphia Live Arts and Philly Fringe productions are no longer limited to a one- or two-week run in late summer. The Live Arts’ premiere venture into year-round offerings brings an innovative fusion of performance and science to Philadelphia in February with the world’s first full-scale ROBOT-HUMAN THEATER. A collaboration between internationally acclaimed playwright and director Oriza Hirata (founder of Japan’s celebrated Seinendan Theater Company) and the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory of Osaka University (under the direction of Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field), the program consists of two short plays: I, WORKER; and SAYONARA.
Set at a time in the future when the co-existence of humans and robot-maids has become the norm in every household, the double bill not only employs the cutting-edge technology of automatons, but also explores the compelling themes of illness and death, the roles played in our daily lives by work and technology, and the big issue of what it means to be human.
I, WORKER, created in 2008, features two live actors and two robots. The twenty-minute piece, performed in Japanese with English subtitles, tells the story of a young couple, the Mayamas, and the robots, Takeo and Momoko, who live with them. While Momoko continues to play an essential role in the family by performing her chores (since, by definition, robots were invented to work), Takeo has lost his motivation. The robot’s malaise is juxtaposed with the husband’s heart-wrenching personal struggle to cope with the loss of his child. We are left to wonder if a robot (and, by extension, a human) loses its value if it can no longer work?
SAYONARA is performed by android and human actors in English and Japanese, with English subtitles. In it, the line between robot and human is blurred when the android Geminoid F, with astonishingly human features, is bought to comfort a human girl suffering from a fatal illness. When its mechanics go haywire, the meaning of life and death, to both humans and robots, is brought into question.
The Live Arts’ two-night run of ROBOT-HUMAN THEATER is part of a six-city North American tour, which also includes stops at the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH), Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (Burlington, VT), Canadian Stage (Toronto), and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Co-produced by The Japan Foundation and Japan Society, New York, each performance of the 75-minute production (including intermission) is followed by a post-show discussion of this ground-breaking work.
Written and directed by Oriza Hirata
Developed in collaboration with Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro
Seinendan Theater Company and Osaka University Robot Theater Project
February 15-16, 2013
Philadelphia Live Arts and Philly Fringe
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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