How To Build A (Play About A) Robot

July 28, 2017

A timeline of how we created our epilogue, The Robot,
with a cast and creative team of 15.


May 25: Initial brainstorming session
Actors Jean Goto, Mariah Freda & Brianna Kalisch, our dramaturg, director, Resident Set Designer and Assistant Director.  


We explored the following themes/questions:

  • our stereotypical notions of robots

  • how humans teach or train robots

  • Benefits of robots and artificial intelligence

  • What value to humans offer to robots?

  • Will Artificial Intelligence replace or extinct humans before climate change does?

    • From an interview in The Guardian with James Lovelock:
      Lovelock: Because quite soon – before we’ve reached the end of this century, even – I think that what people call robots will have taken over.
      Guardian: Robots will rule the world?
      Lovelock: Well, yes. They’ll be in charge.
      Guardian: In charge of us?
      Lovelock: Yes, if we’re still here. Whether they’ll have taken over peacefully or otherwise, I have no idea. 

  • We filmed eco-sin confessions

  • Mariah proposed the following chilling narrative: 

The Robots were brought in for the great Civil War that began due to lack of natural resources. The “Liberal Elites” had no access to the US Military so they began programing robots to fight on the battlefields. During the years of fighting the robots were constantly absorbing knowledge and information-including empathy. When they won in the end, there were so many of them that they became the dominant species. They are not evil-in fact-they never forget so all lessons of the past stay learned.


And Brianna played on stilts. 


June 26: Brainstorming Meeting Part 2

Actors: Mariah, Brianna, Alexandra; Lynde (Dramaturg), Melissa (Director), Philip (Assistant Director), Andy Evan Cohen (Sound Designer)


The theme for The Robot is "adaptation." What happens when we are adapted against our will? Which adaptations will we have to make or embrace?


We wanted to focus on a glimpse at a world without resources, where the power dynamic has shifted between humans and robots or artificial intelligence. A proposal that robots now manage the resources that humans have squandered and where the line is blurred between who is human-like (well-trained robots) and who is machine or robot-like (the humans). This would take place approximately between 2090-2100.

  • We discussed the top solutions for climate change as proposed by the authors of Drawdown:

    • We focused on the top two solutions that focused on personal agency: reduced food waste (#3) and plant-rich diet (#4)

  • Are robots more energy efficient (don't need food, etc.) and therefore less susceptible to a world with limited natural resources?

  • What do the robots look like? Are they taller so that they can navigate through flood zones?

    • Proposal: Mariah will learn how to walk on stilts so that there could be two Robots

  • A series of questions was asked to the group:

    1. What is your greatest robot fear?

    - robots will walk among us with autonomous agency
    - we are creating something without empathy, they are essentially sociopaths or, we are creating layers between each other that deaden our own empathy (re : drones, making the killing more humane for the people doing the killing) we are not interacting with one another anymore!
    - reality itself can be manipulated! (AR and VR)
    - the loss of craftsmanship - will we make our own art obsolete?
    - they are replacing us!

    2.  What is your greatest robot fantasy?
    - I want to live forever and know everything!
    - self driving cars - take egos out of the road!
    - Tony Stark’s hologram computer!
    3. What are the qualities of the future world

- industrial sounds - metal clinking, steel
- cyclical, repetitive
- automated voices
- industrial haze
- maybe it’s just always super bright because robots don’t need night and day sterile, clean, pristine
- Soylent Green (eating the apple)
- Rocky 4  (happy birthday robot)
- the origin of man image but for robots
- on the grid - angles 

  • Then we found a cool set piece in the rehearsal space so we had to play with it (perhaps the humans will be punished by required rolling??!)


June 29: Dramaturgical meeting to create script map

Lynde Rosario (Dramaturg) and Melissa Moschitto (Director) met to process through all of the ideas proposed via our initial sessions and outside conversations to synthesize the most cogent ones.


July 8: Text Work

One of the goals for this piece was to try and tell the story through physical language and visual storytelling and limited text, ideally found text. Lynde and Melissa investigated text generated by artificial intelligence.




July 10: First full cast rehearsal

  • we discussed the overall goals of the piece

  • developed physical language

  • tested out staging ideas

  • composition work with bot-chat conversations : each actor was given a question to generate a conversation with their robot of choice. They then used that text to devise a short scene, several of which are used in the final script for the play


July 17: Staging rehearsal w/ full cast


July 23-26: Continuing to stage and refine during technical rehearsals


 Using repurposed plastic bags (mattress packaging) to create a world infused with plastic



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