Orpheus and Eurydice: Electromechanical Redux

An exploratory production revisiting classical mythology through robotic performance and human-machine interaction


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Design
  • Performance

Organizing Institutions

ModLab, Immersive Kinematics Group, Slought


Lembit Beecher, Simon Kim, Mark Yim


Aaron Levy


Immersive Kinematics group and Dean's Office, PennDesign


Opera Philadelphia, and Youngmoo Kim, Resident Technologist

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


25% Formal - 75% Informal

  • Human-machine interface
  • Opera
  • Robotic performance
  • Technology

Slought, the ModLab group at PennEngineering, and the Immersive Kinematics group at PennDesign, are pleased to announce Orpheus and Eurydice: Electromechanical Redux, a contemporary retelling of the classic operatic story, on Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 8pm at Slought. The program will feature a 45 minute experimental performance, followed by a 45 minute conversation with the organizers. Afterwards, the public will be invited to actively participate in the production by examining the technology and talking with the performers, engineers and architects.

The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is a classic operatic story in which Orpheus descends into the Underworld, tames the Furies, makes a plea to Hades and Persephone, and attempts the rescue of Eurydice. This project dynamically reworks this famous myth by foregrounding interaction among human opera singers, musicians, and actuated devices. Conceptually, Orpheus and Eurydice: Electromechanical Redux offers a series of exploratory sketches concerning how technology, live performance and narration can come together in retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The staging of the production will emulate a laboratory or workshop environment, and will be devoid of set, director or conventional staging.

The production team encompasses faculty and students from engineering and architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, an award-winning former composer-in-residence of Opera Philadelphia, and musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music, all working together with robotic performers and players.

read more

Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his "hauntingly lovely and deeply personal" music, and by the New York Times for his "alluring" and "emotive" work, Lembit Beecher strives to create intimate, heartfelt, quirky and dramatically potent musical experiences. In 2011 Lembit was appointed to a three-year term as the inaugural composer-in-residence of Opera Philadelphia in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre Group of New York. Gotham Chamber Opera's premiere of I Have No Stories To Tell You at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was dubbed an "ingenious project" by The Wall Street Journal, which praised it for its "power" and "artful" use of baroque instruments. Lembit has degrees from Harvard, Rice and the University of Michigan, has been in residence at the Copland House and Scrag Mountain Music, and was a fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities. His music has been performed at the Tanglewood, Aspen and Cabrillo Music Festivals and by the New Jersey Symphony, New York Youth Symphony, University of Michigan Symphony Band, Opera Philadelphia, Ensemble ACJW, Del Sol String Quartet, Aizuri Quartet and Claremont Trio, among others.

Mark Yim is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His group studies modular self-reconfigurable robots and has demonstrated robots that can transform into different shapes, jump, ride tricycles, climb stairs, poles and fences, manipulate objects and reassemble themselves after being kicked into pieces. His other research interests include product design, reactive art and architecture, origami, snake locomotion, flying robots, and self-assembling floating structures. Recent collaborations include technology in Shakespeare, Unethical Machines gallery exhibit, a robotic ballet and a mechatronic jazz show. Honors include the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (UPenn's highest teaching honor); induction as a World Technology Network Fellow; and induction to MIT's TR100 in 1999. He has over 40 patents issued (perhaps most prominent are related to the video game vibration control which resulted in over US$100,000,000 in litigation settlements).

Simon Kim is a licensed architect and assistant professor with graduate degrees from MIT and the AA in London. He is principal at IK Studio and faculty at PennDesign where he directs Immersive Kinematics. At Immersive Kinematics, Simon have been working in the arts and public performances for five years, with such groups as Pig Iron Theatre, Carbon Dance Theatre, and Grace Kelly Jazz. In 2012 Simon also produced the exhibition Nervous Matter at Traction Company with the artists Steven and Billy Dufala. Most recently Simon presented The Minister of Foreign Affairs at the ICA, a project resulting from his residency at RAIR. Simon's work with theatre and the arts is an open engagement of architecture, interaction, and robotics.


The performance is free, however we encourage you to register in advance via eventbrite.com

About the Production

Architecture and theater have had a long-standing relationship, from Palladio's designs for the Teatro Olimpico to Modernist Bauhaus productions and, more recently, the contemporary work of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

For PennDesign, architecture and dramaturgy is tethered to material transformations over time and sound. At Slought, these transformations are activated by new technologies and new media in response to opera and audience. The movement of the human performers, and the music they produce, is echoed in the activation of sound and movement in the devices and structures on stage.

To learn more about these methodologies, as well as past projects by Mark Yim and Simon Kim, read The Robot Etudes and Motion and Modular Architecture.