ROBO: Bilingual Tintamarre comedy looks at love, machines and what it means to be human

Alex Fancy

Alex Fancy

Mount Allison professor emeritus Alex Fancy began using theatre in the 1970s to help him teach French.

“Language is a three-phase phenomenon,” Fancy said last night in the lobby outside the university’s Motyer-Fancy Theatre.

“Language consists of word, music and gesture, but classroom teaching focuses on the word.”

He added that much of the meaning comes from music and gesture and in order to be a more effective teacher, he decided to get his students performing in bilingual plays he wrote for them.

By the mid 1980s, he was collaborating with students on writing the scripts and creating the characters in the plays.

“I saw the stage as a way of creating a dramatic illusion,” he says, “and the illusion that people were bilingual.”

Now officially retired, Fancy continues to collaborate with Mount Allison students who volunteer to perform in the plays they create together as part of the Tintamarre theatre company.

This year’s play, ROBO, is about the sometimes troubling interactions between people and machines. Its cast consists of 20 students from a wide range of academic disciplines.

“I had this idea of doing something about robots,” Fancy says. “The idea was embraced with huge enthusiasm by the whole group when we first chose it last March.”

The play is about what happens when an “actroid,” a robot disguised as a person, infiltrates a group of students who hang out together in their school.

“This robot is not particularly socialized so there are some very amusing exchanges between the robot and the other members of the group,” Fancy says.

“What we hope is that spectators will see human characteristics in the robot, but also see very mechanistic obsessions and other such characteristics in the humans,” he adds.

“We hope that people will leave the play having had a great time, it’s an 80-minute comedy, but also seeing how a simple story can raise some really pretty profound social questions.”

ROBO is being performed by the Tintamarre theatre company in Mount Allison’s Motyer-Fancy Theatre from Wednesday, January 20 to Saturday, January 23. Performances begin at 8 p.m.

Click here to listen to the CHMA campus radio report on ROBO.

Click here to read a local newspaper report.

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