Ars Electronica 2006
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Theater and New Technologies
The Electric Grandmother

' Ars Electronica Futurelab Ars Electronica Futurelab

One important part of the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s mission is to experiment with the widest possible array of new technological applications in as many areas of creativity as possible. This is the background of the collaborative efforts the Futurelab has undertaken with the Phönix Theater Linz since 2005. This play for youngsters by Franz Schwabeneder based on Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi short story is enhanced by interactive stage elements and stereoscopic computer animation.

Experts from the Ars Electronica Futurelab are enhancing this piece’s dramaturgy via virtual expansion of the stage set. Futurelab staffers aren’t just providing the technology that makes this production possible; they’re endowing this theatrical performance with what amounts to an additional artistic level. In an effort undertaken especially for the The Electric Grandmother, they gathered ideas and inspiration from kids attending Ars Electronica workshops and young participants in the 2006 Prix’s u19 freestyle computing category to create scenographic elements in the form of computer-animated film footage. This material will be projected stereoscopically and blend together with the classical performance elements to form a media art theatrical production.

The Electric Grandmother
By Franz Schwabeneder. Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury.
For audiences age 7 and up.

Her name is Cecily and her serial number is 0000214. She’s the first humanoid model-microcircuit-biocommunications-activity-electrical-grandmother. She was created by famed robotics engineer Guido Fantoccini to be a helpful companion—for example, to a family that had lost its mother. This is the very blow that fate had delivered to Thaddäus, his daughter Agatha and his sons Thomas and Timo. So, one evening, Guido Fantoccini arrives by flymobile to bring the family an electric grandmother. The granny-robot takes over the organization of the household and assumes the childrearing duties in word and in deed. After all, she’s the result of state-of-the-art programming and possesses an immense body of knowledge in virtually all areas of life. At first, Agatha is not the least bit happy with the new “family member” since she fears that the “android box” will repress her memory of her beloved mother, but the electric grandmother also knows how to deal with the pain a child feels. On the other hand, Timo, the youngest member of the family, has discovered that his new granny is absolutely wonderful at telling stories, and these exciting tales nurture his enormous talent as an inventor. Together with his brother Thomas, he builds a tunnel designed for “digital teleportation,” but there’s dreadful danger lurking at the end of this tunnel. And if it wasn’t for the electric grandmother ...

Translated from German by Mel Greenwald

Director: Franz Schwabeneder; Artistic Advisor: Ioan C. Toma; Cast: Randolf Destaller, Gabriele Deutsch, Thomas Pohl, Christian Scharrer, Waltraud Starck; Sets/Props: Bonnie Tillemann; Lighting: Erich Uiberlacker; Virtual Staging: Ars Electronica Futurelab / Christine Pilsl, Christopher Lindinger, Andreas Jalsovec, Stefan Schilcher
The Electric Grandmother is a cooperation of Phoenix Theater, Linz and Ars Electronica and was premiered at Schäxpir 2006 International Theater Festival. Thanks to the Museum of the Province of Upper Austria.