Ten Strangers in a Room
Documentation from an initial experiment using text generated by ChatGPT for a performance.
In March-June 2023 I experimented with using ChatGPT to write a script for a performance, working with an excellent team of University of Wollongong theatre students.
The aim was to use this technology to make a performance work that would critique the use of AI in the creative arts, while also highlighting the inimitable humanity of live performance.
To do this we asked ChatGPT to write us a drama about themes we thought AI might struggle with - ‘human connection’ and ‘the power of vulnerability’.
After a lot of back and forth with the bot, we eventually got a 3 act play full of dialogue banal and generic, characters flat and superficial, drama contrived and clichéd. The script had too much exposition and characters talking about their feelings, making for a terrible drama, but potentially a great comedy.
The challenge the work presented us as makers and performers was whether such an empty text could be brought to life in a meaningful way. Attempting to transform (or transcend) the soulless words with real humans in a real space in front of an audience of real humans - something AI might never be able to do, right?
To do this we leant into the daggy, staged, representational aesthetic the script suggested, pushing it into absurdity (hence too much makeup, mediocre set and costume design, unimaginative staging and and melodramatic acting). Aiming to make something playful, ironic, subversive and passionate out of something artificial, empty and cold, we ended up somewhere fun and silly, uncanny and disturbing.
For my residency at Cité, I plan to work on a new performance that goes deeper in the critique of AI's relationship with art and specifically theatre and performance. Ten Strangers in a Room, leant very much into the flaws of the text to create a farce. While I want to hold onto this humour and uncanny aesthetic, I hope to go further into making a performance that encourages the audience to question what we want the role of AI to be, not just in the arts, but in our lives.