Are two Dee, too?

By Cassandra Santiago
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Robots and theater? Who would have thought?

Denise Szecsei, that’s who.

This fall, Szecsei, a University of Iowa lecturer, taught Storming the Castle: Adventures in Robot Theater, a five-week first-year seminar. It is the third course she’s taught on the topic.

“It’s really bringing together the arts and sciences,” she said. “It gives the student a chance to be creative with their technology … and step into the performing arts when they might not otherwise venture unto the stage.”

But the stars venturing unto the theater stage Saturday will be, predominantly, six humanoid robots. At the end of each course, the students must put together a play open to the public. The one-time play will debut 2 p.m. Saturday in the Theater Building’s Theater B. Following the 30-minute performance will be a question-and-answer period with Szecsei and her students.

“Audiences can expect a surprisingly human performance from a group of robots,” said Malcom Queneau, a student in Storming the Castle: Adventures in Robot Theatre.

The robots have the ability to speak, shiver, squat, stand, and move their arms to emphasize their words. One robot’s words trigger another to speak. With glowing eyes and large speakers in place of ears, they seem to listen and converse with each other.

One push of a button will showcase weeks of coding and creative writing by Queneau and five classmates. Audiences will get to see what happens when robots attend a summer camp and participate in learning activities and campfire storytelling.

“What I look forward to is seeing the audience enjoying the show,” said Antonio Martinez, one of the class members. “It always makes me feel happy when the work you’ve put into is enjoyable.”

Robot Theater
Where: Theater Building Theater B
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Admission: Free

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