Image: Generated by Microsoft Bing's Image Creator leveraging OpenAI's Dall-E GAN model to the prompt "artificial intelligence in contemporary Indian theatre".
AI on Stage
Research project exploring the Impact and potential of artificial intelligence in contemporary theatre practice in India.
Researcher: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Supported by Parivartan Annual Grant for Research in the Performing Arts.
PROBLEM STATEMENT & BACKGROUND:
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as text-based LLMs, GAN models for images, videos, voice, and music, in contemporary theatre practice raises a multitude of artistic, ethical and technological questions. However, the impact, role, and implications of AI in live theatre productions in India is largely unexplored. This research aims to investigate the transformative power of AI in theatre, understanding how AI can influence the creative process, shape performance elements, and engage with audiences in real-time. As a theatre director, researcher and creative technologist, I have consistently integrated new media and technology in live theatre performances, such as audio and IVRS in Lifeline 99 99 (2021), live camera and green screen in Ollantay (2021) interactive web design in The Flabby Breasted Virgin & Other Sordid Tales (2022) and artificial intelligence in Climateprov (2023) and Mining Hate (2023). My previous work experience in the technology sector as well as my participation as an artistic researcher in programs like the German Chancellor Fellowship, BeFantastic India’s AI + Arts Fellowship and the Goethe Institut’s AI to Amplify Fellowship have provided me with the necessary tools, knowledge and professional network to undertake this research project.
The research hypothesis posits that the incorporation of AI in contemporary Indian theatre will significantly impact the creative process, offering novel ways of generating narratives and influencing and manipulating dramatic elements, such as voice, movement, stage design and audience engagement in real-time. It further suggests that AI-driven theatrical practices will raise crucial ethical, artistic, and legal questions regarding authorship, creative process, performer autonomy, and audience engagement.
SCOPE & METHODOLOGY:
This six-month ethnographic research project will encompass various dimensions of AI's role in contemporary theatre practice in India. The following key components will be explored:
a. AI in Theatrical Devising: This will be a practical exploration of AI technologies for scriptwriting, voice synthesis, music composition, and real-time image and video generation in the rehearsal room, using simple creative prompts. Different aspects of the dramatic process will be explored here, such as scripting, devising, live vs recorded stories etc.
b. AI in Stage Design: The use of AI in stage design will be examined, focusing on how AI-generated images, videos, filters and other visual elements can enhance the overall aesthetics and atmosphere of the performance. The research will explore how AI can dynamically create and manipulate stage elements in response to the unfolding narrative.
c. AI in Text Translation and Adaptation: AI technologies can aid in the translation and adaptation of scripts, allowing for multilingual performances and cross-cultural collaborations. The research will investigate how AI-driven language processing can facilitate seamless translation and enhance accessibility in theatre.
d. AI in Voice, Music, Video and Sound: The research will explore AI's potential in generating original music compositions, voice synthesis for characters, and dynamic soundscapes in real-time through softwares such as Eleven Labs, PlayHT and Gooey. This section will examine the impact of AI on the emotional and auditory experience of the audience.
f. AI in Movement and Choreography: The potential of AI in devising movement and choreography will be examined, considering how AI-generated algorithms can influence the physicality and gestures of performers, creating new dimensions in the choreographic vocabulary. Herein, computer vision models will be explored.
Ethical implications related to AI usage in theatre will be actively considered throughout the research process. Measures will be implemented to address issues of authorship, performer autonomy, and informed consent from the live audience.
a. Public Workshops: Three public workshops in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore will be conducted, inviting performers and theatre-makers to explore and devise theatrical scenes using AI. These workshops will provide insights into performers' perspectives and their comfort levels when collaborating with AI technologies.
b. Survey of Contemporary Theatre-Makers: A survey will be administered to contemporary Indian theatre-makers to understand the diverse ways they employ AI in their creative processes. This will complement the ethnographic research and provide a broader understanding of AI's impact on the Indian theatre community.
c. Theatre-Tech Lab: I will undertake hands-on exploration of AI technologies in theatrical devising process in the rehearsal room, with dedicated experimentation and trials for this research project as well as my other ongoing theatre projects.
d. Documentation: There will be ongoing documentation of the research project on my blog, offering both reflective insights on the research discoveries as well as technical descriptions of AI softwares in the context of theatre practice, glimpses of workshops and rehearsals processes and snapshot of responses from the public engagement with theatre-makers, performers and other participants.
The research project will be conducted over six months, starting October 2023. The proposed timeline is as follows:
Month 1: Literature review, theoretical framework development, and research objectives refinement. Practical experimentation of AI technologies in the rehearsal room begins.
Month 2: Initial survey administration and public workshop planning. Rehearsal room experimentation continues, with documentation on the blog.
Month 3: Execution of the first public workshop in Delhi, followed by data collection and analysis. Documentation of the work process on the blog.
Month 4: Execution of the second public workshop in Mumbai and Bangalore, followed by data collection and analysis. Documentation of the work process on the blog.
Month 5: Rehearsals and documentation of the AI-driven theatre production, incorporating real-time audience participation. Preparation of research presentation and framework.
Month 6: Research outcomes presentation to the Parivartan team and other stakeholders, along with the presentation of first draft of AI theatre production.
Expected Results and Outcomes:
The research project aims to achieve the following outcomes:
An in-depth understanding of the impact and potential of AI technologies in contemporary theatre practice in India, particularly in the creative process and performance elements.
A comprehensive framework for the integration of AI in theatre production, guiding future artistic collaborations with AI technologies.
A research presentation that documents and communicates the research findings, highlighting ethical, artistic, and legal considerations in the use of AI in contemporary theatre practice.
A work-in-progress theatre production, demonstrating the creative possibilities of AI in live performances, developed in real-time collaboration with a live audience.
By conducting an innovative and focused investigation, this research project endeavors to shed light on the transformative role of AI in contemporary Indian theatre and contribute meaningfully to the dialogue on AI-driven creativity and ethical considerations in the performing arts. The research aims to inspire theatre-makers, researchers, and artists to explore the potential of AI in fostering novel artistic expressions, while responsibly navigating the ethical implications that arise from the collaboration between human creativity and AI technologies. Through workshops, surveys, and a live theatre production, the project aims to engage the theatre community and foster meaningful discussions on the evolving intersection of technology and theatre practice in the Indian context.