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Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka

Performing Arts

(c) Tsukasa Aoki

Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka
University Robot Theater Project
Android-Human Theater Sayonara
Robot-Human Theater I, Worker

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 8 PM
Fri, Feb 1, 2013 8 PM
Sat, Feb 2, 2013 8 PM

“Enthralling…not only with the state-of-the-art technology but also with its compelling humanist message.”—The Nation [Thailand]

Japan has long led the world in the development of sophisticated robots and their integration into daily life. Those efforts have imprinted us with archetypal images—from gigantic robots threatening civilization in old sci-fi films to benign robots embodying today’s “cute” culture in Japan. So it should come as no surprise that the Japanese fascination with robots, androids, and artificial intelligence would find its way into the world of theater. Tokyo-based Seinendan Theater Company’s founder/playwright/director Oriza Hirata, a pioneer of Japan’s “Quiet Theater” contemporary theater movement, enlisted Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a leading researcher on robotics and the director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University, as an expert collaborator and technical advisor for this compelling pair of productions.

In the touching play Sayonara, a woman engages a human-like Geminoid F model android in a discussion of respective views on life and death. Oriza Hirata recently updated the work to include new scenes inspired by the catastrophic events of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, in which the android breaks down, then gets successfully repaired, only to be sent off to help fix problems at a critically damaged nuclear power plant.

I, Worker, set in the near future, subtly contrasts the trials of a distressed husband, who has lost all motivation to work, with those of a pair of ever-ready Mitsubishi-manufactured robot maids, who were created for the sole purpose of working although one no longer can work. The multilayered piece raises questions such as “does a robot lose all value if it can't work?” and “does the same thing apply to humans, even when we reach the age of retirement?”

Both works summon strong emotions and a high degree of empathy for the sensitive and responsive robot and android characters. See for yourself when Seinendan Theater Company makes their Columbus debut with their visions of things to come.

Performed in Japanese with English surtitles.

This program’s six-city tour is coproduced by Japan Society, New York, and The Japan Foundation, and organized by Japan Society, New York.

This presentation is sponsored by Ohio State's College of Engineering with additional support from the East Asian Studies Center.

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