Performing Robots


23 May 2023
15:00 - 18:30
Het Huis Utrecht

Robots in SPRING



In the Acting Like a Robot research project, we bring together theatre makers and roboticists to investigate how theatre can contribute to the design of robot behaviour and the interaction between humans and robots and, vice versa, how robotics opens new terrain for theatre-makers. During this afternoon in Het Huis Utrecht, we will present our current research as well as projects of others that inspire us. We will start with three short lectures by Evelyn Ficarra (University of Sussex), Edwin Dertien (UTwente) and Maaike Bleeker (Utrecht University). After that, visitors can take a look at (and interact with) various projects-in-progress including an installation that allows you to perceive the world like a robot, and a duet between a dancer and a robot.

Date/Time: Tuesday 23 May 15.00-18.30
Location: Het Huis (Boorstraat 107, Utrecht)
RSVP: Entrance is free. Please register via this link



15.00- 16.30h Series of lectures

 “Acting Like a Robot & Friends: An Update” – Maaike Bleeker (Utrecht University)

This opening lecture will present a brief update on the Acting Like a Robot project and several collaborations that have emerged from this project.

“O, I Am Not Bot Not Bot: Who Is Singing if a Robot Sings?” – Evelyn Ficarra (University of Sussex):

In 2017, the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex instigated a Robot Opera research project, combining creative practice research with scholarly reflection. Opera encompasses a broad array of expressive forms – music, words, story, image, movement, scenography, design, performance – and thus offers a myriad of lenses through which to explore our relationship with robots. In return, the engagement with robots forces re-assessment of operatic conventions and forms. How might we redefine vocal expression, virtuosity and identity in the context of robot voice?

“The Robot Theatre Lab project” – Edwin Dertien (University of Twente):

During a brief sabbatical last year, Edwin Dertien designed, built and operated a robot actor for a professional theatre production. In this talk he will share his experiences and insights for social robot design, sketching outlines for further/future research in his Robot Theatre Lab project.


16.30-18.30h Walk-in presentations and short performances:

– Experience an experimental mixed reality set-up that allows users to ‘step in the shoes’ of a robot and get a sense of its perceptual capacities. A project by Marco Rozendaal and Jered Vroon of the Expressive Intelligence Lab (TU Delft), and Maaike Bleeker (UU).

– Join Marijke Hessels’ & Suze van Miltenburg’s (Ulrike Quade Company) and Sem Carree & Maneesh Kuma Verma’s (YESDelft) showcase of their exploration with robodog SPOT.  What is the expressiveness of this robot in a performative context? Can we open an imagination that goes beyond SPOT as a serving dogfigure?

– Can we open an imagination that goes beyond SPOT as a serving dogfigure?

– Watch dancers interact with robots in a short performance developed by Bram Ellens, Soyun Jang and Rick van Dugteren (Creative Robotics).

– Meet with robot-actor Ravi, the star from Theater Sonnevanck’s show Ravi de Robot, brought to you by its creator Edwin Dertien.

Acting Like a Robot 
is a collaboration between Utrecht University (Theatre Studies/ research group Transmission in Motion), de Vrije Universiteit (Computer Science/ research group Social AI), de Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Utrecht (Performative Creation Processes), theatre company Ulrike Quade Company and SPRING Performing Arts Festival. This project is financially supported by NWO (SMART Culture ClSC.KC.205) and Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, through an innovation grant issued to Ulrike Quade Company.