Robot-themed plays to be broadcast Friday

URBANA — The Illinois Japan Performing Arts Network will present a screening of "Sayonara" and "I, Worker," two new plays being performed at the Japan Society of New York.

The performances will be broadcast live from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday in the National Center for Supercomputing Applications auditorium, 1205 W. Clark St., U, at the University of Illinois.

Written and directed by Oriza Hirata and performed by the Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka University Robot Theater Project, the plays are set in a future where android servants are part of our everyday lives and feature human and robot actors interacting onstage together.

In "Sayonara," an android is bought to console a girl suffering from a fatal illness, but when its mechanics go awry, the meaning of life and death to humans and robots comes into question.

In "I, Worker," a husband's struggle to cope with the loss of his child is juxtaposed with the malaise of one of his robots, which has lost all motivation to work. The robot actors were developed in collaboration with Hiroshi Ishiguro, a leading international researcher on robotics and director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University.

"Sayonara" will be performed in English and Japanese, with English subtitles. "I, Worker" will be performed in Japanese with English subtitles.

The performances will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Hirata and Ishiguro, who is the developer of several humanoid robots. The performances also will be broadcast live at http://ijpan.ncsa.illinois.edu. For information, contact ijpan-webmaster@illinois.edu.

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