An Excerpt from Robertson's Article
Czech playwright Karel Čapek’s 1920 play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) both introduced the word “robot” to the world and robots to the world stage. R.U.R. was translated into Japanese and performed in Tokyo at the avant-garde Tsukiji Shōgekijō (Tsukiji Small Theatre) in 1924. But it remains the case that despite the worldwide success of R.U.R., the theatre, unlike cinema (including animation), has not been actively utilized as a stage for science fiction scenarios exploring human-robot interactions and coexistence. Thus, since the debut in 1927 of Robot Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, films featuring robot protagonists have proliferated. Moreover, prose science fiction has proved to be more adaptable as film and animation than as theatre. This article explores the interface of humanoid robotics, science fiction, and robot theatre in Japan. A description of a robot comedy staged by the all-female Takarazuka Revue in 1932 is followed by the Japanese translation and production of R.U.R.. I, Worker, a play produced as part of the Robot Theatre (robotto engeki) project inaugurated in 2006 by playwright Hirata Oriza and roboticist Ishiguro Hiroshi, is discussed as an experimental site for assessing human-robot interactions with a focus on gestural and interjectional communication. Robot theatre is a type of real-world science fiction that explores and interrogates human-robot coexistence.