photo montage: Ivo Fovanna

A research project of the Manufacture School of Drama in Lausanne, Switzerland, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, under the direction of Nicolas Zlatoff, 2020-2021.

A conversational agent is a computer program resulting from advances in artificial intelligence (AI), which aims to mimic human dialogue interactions. Theatre has made little use of this tool, even though, historically, it has been a practice centred on uttering text. On the basis of this observation, the research team directed by Nicolas Zlatoff at La Manufacture (Haute École des Arts de la Scène) is dedicated precisely to the design, development and staging of a conversational agent on the model of an actor or an actress who would improvise from a text, as he or she usually does in rehearsals.

The team uses a tried-and-tested theatrical technique, originating in the method of one of the most important pedagogues in the history of 20th century theatre, Constantin Stanislavsky, known as action analysis. It allows the actor or actress to improvise and recompose a theatrical text that he or she does not yet know by heart. Using his or her partial knowledge of the text, he or she performs it in fragments, sometimes in his or her own words. A group of acting graduates from La Manufacture will work on this practice with computer scientists who will in turn model it and gradually develop a conversational agent-actor able to engage in a dialogue in writing as well as orally with a human partner on stage.

This transdisciplinary collaboration intends to shift the perception paradigm of an AI, using the acting tools specific to theatre practitioners, and will explore the tension created by the coexistence on stage of a living and an artificial presence.

Project page on the website of the Manufacture.


Nicolas Zlatoff, stage director
Prune Beuchat, comedian
Guillaume Ceppi, comedian (Manufacture graduate 2019)
Pr. Clément Hongler, mathematician and AI researcher
Claire de Ribaupierre, dramaturge
Marc Riner, IT designer
Lucas Savioz, comedian (Manufacture graduate 2018)
Batrek Sozanski, comedian, HES research assistant
Elsa Thébault, comedian (Manufacture graduate 2019)
Lisa Veyrier, comedian (Manufacture graduate 2016), HES research assistant
Jérémie Wenger, writer and programmer

Podcast (in French)

Recherche@Manufacture · Savoirs Sensibles - Épisode 1 - Chatbot de Nicolas Zlatoff


Documents and Press coverage






Code base on GitHub