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MIT Premieres Pedro Reyes' Puppet Play with Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Elon Musk, Tiny Trump

MIT Premieres Pedro Reyes' Puppet Play with Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Elon Musk, Tiny Trump

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is pleased to announce the world premiere of Manufacturing Mischief, a new satirical play by Pedro Reyes that features puppet characters based on Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Elon Musk and "Tiny Trump." Making its world premiere at MIT's Simmons Hall on April 26 and 27, 2018, the work was conceived as part of Reyes' residency as the inaugural Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. This position was established to support artists in the development of new work through contributions made by MIT's renowned faculty and students.

"My goal is to create a new puppet play that deals with issues of technology, ideology and the current political climate from a critical perspective, while also serving as entertainment and speaking both to scholars and a broader audience alike," says Pedro Reyes. "My time at MIT has been influential in creating this piece, and it is an honor to create a work inspired by Professor Noam Chomsky."

The plot centers around two MIT students who are planning a birthday surprise for MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomksy, using a new form of Artificial Intelligence called the "Print-A-Friend." After they insert a book, out pops the author Karl Marx, bringing one of Chomsky's heroes, back to life. Through a series of mishaps, Ayn Rand and "Tiny Trump" also appear and wreak havoc on the party. Hoping to make amends for a gift gone haywire, the students try to enlist the help of Elon Musk, but encounter his robot surrogate instead. In the end, they are left to grapple with the unintended consequences of their technological innovation.

Using comedy to address political discourse and the dilemmas that Artificial Intelligence and late capitalism pose, the play serves as a critique of new technologies for automation, such as self-driving cars and robots that replace humans in the workforce, as well as the class conflicts that ensue when technology eliminates jobs.

The Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist residency program launched in fall 2015 with a donation from Dasha Zhukova, the Russian American philanthropist, entrepreneur, art collector and founder of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. It provides support for artists from a wide range of disciplines to engage with the creative energy, innovative thinking and advanced technology found across the MIT community. The arts have been an integral part of MIT since its founding, and this position builds upon the Institute's vision for ensuring that the intersections of art, science and technology will continue to serve as the foundation for achieving institutional excellence. Reyes was chosen from a pool of more than 50 nominations by MIT faculty and arts leaders.

In addition to leading the series of meetings and working sessions at MIT for developing the play Manufacturing Mischief, Reyes taught The Reverse Engineering of Warfare: Challenging Techno-optimism and Re-imagining the Defense Sector, a studio class in the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, with designer Carla Fernández. The course took a critical stance toward the effects of technology on current political discourse, democracy, wealth distribution and world conflicts. Working with interactive installations, sound sculptures, agitprop and staged interventions, they encouraged students to reimagine the ethos of the defense sector and challenge the contemporary pervasiveness of technology.

As part of his residency at MIT, Reyes met Professor Noam Chomsky and proposed creating a play featuring Chomsky as the protagonist. Reyes has integrated theater into his repertoire since 2008, often using handmade puppets from Japan inspired by the Bunraku tradition. His puppet plays include The Permanent Revolution (2014) on the life of Leon Trotsky and other political satires featuring key figures in the history of philosophy, such as Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

Following the world premiere at MIT, Manufacturing Mischief will travel to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and to The Tank in New York City. Manufacturing Mischief was created by Pedro Reyes, and is directed by Meghan Finn, with a script by Paul Hufker. Reyes previously worked with this team on his Doomocracy project.


Pedro Reyes is a widely celebrated multi-platform artist, activist and educator based in Mexico City. He uses all aspects of visual art and education to address political and social issues. One of his main commitments is using the arts to reduce gun violence. In 2008, Reyes commenced Palas por Pistolas. The program collected over 1,527 guns donated from Mexican citizens, melted them down into 1,527 shovels, and then gave them to various schools and art institutions, which in turn used them to plant 1,527 trees. The program's success garnered attention from the Mexican government, which donated 6,700 weapons that Reyes converted into musical instruments. As part of this pacifist effort, he created "Amendment to the Amendment," a traveling workshop where US citizens take part in a rewrite of the Second Amendment. Last year, he was one of 13 artists included in the Ford Foundation's The Art of Change fellowship program. His work Doomocracy was presented by Creative Time at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in 2016.


Since the late 1960s, MIT has been a leader in integrating the arts and pioneering a model for collaboration among artists, scientists and engineers in a research setting. CAST's Visiting Artists Program brings internationally acclaimed artists to engage with MIT's creative community in ways that are mutually enlightening for the artists and for faculty, students and research staff at the Institute. Artists who have worked extensively at MIT include Mel Chin, Olafur Eliasson, Rick Lowe, Vik Muniz, Trevor Paglen, Tomás Saraceno and Anicka Yi. As CAST's inaugural Visiting Artist, Saraceno initiated ongoing collaborations with researchers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences that have generated a master's thesis and three senior projects to date. His large-scale installations and aerosolar projects are inspiring further research into bio-inspired building materials and simulations of atmospheric turbulence and ozone depletion.


A major cross-school initiative, the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) creates new opportunities for art, science and technology to thrive as interrelated, mutually informing modes of exploration, knowledge and discovery.

Since its inception in 2012, CAST has been the catalyst for more than 150 artist residencies and collaborative projects with MIT faculty and students, including numerous cross-disciplinary courses, workshops, concert series, multimedia projects, lectures and symposia. The Visiting Artists Program is a cornerstone of CAST's activities, which encourages cross-fertilization among disciplines and intensive interaction with MIT's faculty and students.

The Center is funded in part by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Evan Ziporyn, Faculty Director; Leila W. Kinney, Executive Director.


Approximately 70 percent of incoming first-year students have prior training in the arts, and nearly 50 percent of all MIT undergraduates enroll in arts courses each year. The arts at MIT connect creative minds across disciplines and encourage a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery. As an example, MIT's Visiting Artists Program enables contemporary artists to engage with MIT's unparalleled environment of pioneering research, unbounded risk-taking and imaginative problem-solving.

Artistic knowledge and creation exemplify MIT's motto-mens et manus, mind and hand. The arts not only strengthen MIT's commitment to the aesthetic, human and social dimensions of research and innovation, but also are essential to MIT's mission to build a better society and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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