“Robot Cabaret”

Yep. It’s what it sounds like.

Quasimondo director Brian Rott and producer Jessi Miller discuss developing their newest work and (a little of) its premise.

By - Feb 13th, 2013 04:00 am

A robot cabaret. Is it safe to say this is something you haven’t yet seen in Milwaukee? Or anywhere?

Director Brian Rott and artistic producer Jessi Miller of The Quasimondo (Milwaukee Physical Theatre) are certain they have something challenging and unseen on their hands with Robot Cabaret, opening Valentine’s Day.

“We started with no concrete ideas,” Rott said. “There are the basic themes of man versus technology, artificial intelligence versus human intelligence, that sort of thing. And we’re a physical theatre, so there’s the usual dancing and puppetry. But not a lot was pre-planned.”

Miller jumped in, summing it up nicely: “It is unto itself.”

The process of creating Robot Cabaret was entirely organic, and dependent upon every member of the ensemble. The Quasimondo’s previous performances – The Seagull 3D, Halloween Tree and Nutcracker vs. Mouse King – were all adapted from previous works (by Anton Chekhov, Ray Bradbury and E.T.A. Hoffmann, respectively). Robot Cabaret sprouted entirely from the minds of the young Quasimondo troupe.

“I studied cabaret while I was in Berlin,” Rott said. “Our idea isn’t influenced by any particular or typical cabaret. I suppose we just wanted to create that juxtaposition between the Parisian style and a robotic style. I knew there was a thread, it was there, I just couldn’t see it in my mind’s eye like I could with the other shows.”

Thus, to build the show, Rott and co-director/writer Michael Guthrie enlisted their actors, encouraging the members of the 11-person cast (8 play robots, 3 humans) to create a narrative from scratch during rehearsal, often through the use of various brainstorming exercises.

“I made sure to tell everyone not to get too attached to anything,” Rott said. “It made for a challenging process. I mean it was fun, but oh yeah, it made me very nervous to put a show together this way. But an expansive amount of material came out of it – the challenge really surprised me.”

The Quasimondo wants to keep as much of the play under-wraps until it opens – Rott even shushing Miller partway through a character list – but here’s what they’d reveal on the record: It’s a mystery set in a “near-distant-future megalopolis” where humans and robots are segregated. The play’s action takes place in the robot cabaret itself, a speakeasy where the two “races” can mingle. And it’ll be something entirely unexpected.

Robot Cabaret opens at 8 p.m. Thurs. Feb. 14 and runs through Mar. 2 at the Milwaukee Fortress, 100 A. East Pleasant Street. The full schedule and tickets ($15) are available online, or call (717) 34-QUASI.

0 thoughts on ““Robot Cabaret”: Yep. It’s what it sounds like.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love the concept of spontaneity expressed here!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to see it!!! Love, Mom

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