Robots and Deep Space: Exciting New ‘Testbed’ Project to Shake Up Digital Theatre Across Europe

The ACuTe project has just been given the green light to ‘revolutionise’ the way theatre and performing arts are produced and performed across Europe.

ACuTe will launch on 8 September at Ars Electronica 2022 with the panel discussion: Digital Theatre - Democratization of a Medium (12:30 – 14:00 CET). This panel will take place on an immersive 3D stage, the setting for the mixed-reality play SH4D0W, and is open to all festival visitors, no prior booking required. Read more


A new and innovative digital theatre project has just been given the green light to ‘revolutionise’ the way theatre and performing arts are produced and performed across Europe.  

ACuTe, which is supported with co-funding from the European Union, brings together a consortium of 14 leading theatre and research organisations – drawn from 10 European countries – to develop experimental theatre productions using pioneering technologies.

These include robots, AI and a ‘deep space cave’, which will be each tested by different organisations to trial new ways of producing shows, telling stories on stage, and getting audiences to interact and engage with art.

The experimentation will be guided by the innovative ‘testbed’ concept, never seen before in the performing arts, and will lead to the sharing of knowledge to upskill the wider theatre and performing art sectors.  

ACuTe, a large-scale digital theatre project

14 organisations are involved in ACuTe, which includes leading theatres, universities and creative arts organisations. The project partners are:

The seven theatre partners are drawn from the European Theatre Convention (ETC) network of theatres - the largest network of publicly-funded theatres in Europe. 5 of the partners had also participated in a previous digital theatre project by ETC, European Theatre Lab. 

ACuTe will launch at the Ars Electronica Festival, one of the highest-profile digital arts festivals in the world. The panel discussion Digital Theatre — Democratization of a Medium will bring together artists and creatives involved in ACuTe to discuss how digital transformation will shape theatre in the years to come.

‘Culture Testbeds’ 

Drawing on learning from other sectors, a ‘culture testbed’ will be created for ACuTe. This process, an inter-disciplinary integration of digital technology and co-creation, will lead to the testing and prototyping of new technologies under the three key project themes: new dramaturgies, stage design and audience engagement. These will be innovations in how we tell stories on stage, how they are produced, and the way audiences interact and engage with them. 

The partner organisations will split into three clusters, matching the three testbed elements, to facilitate regional knowledge sharing. The work will then be supported by a series of expert residencies, training workshops, and support to develop professional capacity in the deep integration of technology in the long-term theatre production process.  

Key elements of the project will be finding ways for co-creations to reach under-advantaged audience groups, and helping to make the sector more resilient and viable post-COVID. 

Similarly, ACuTe aims to provide a more joined-up approach to digital development in the sector, which has to date been sporadic. 

Speaking about the awarding of funding, Blair Stevenson, lead partner on the project, said:

“The ACuTe project could not come at a more crucial time for theatres and the performing arts sector. There is widespread uncertainty about the future for the industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic and is seeking new ways to reengage and build links with audiences. Emerging technologies and the innovative test-bed process, drawn from other sectors, are exactly the sort of experimental tool needed for this moment -- to ensure the resilience, creativity and also playfulness of the sector.”

Heidi Wiley, Executive Director of European Theatre Convention, one of the project partners, added:

“We have been involved in many digital theatre projects in recent years, but none as large-scale as ACuTe, which takes our experience and learning to the next level. This has the potential to make sure the results of digital experimentation are not kept hidden in individual projects, but are brought into mainstream cultural activity and embedded within standard working practices. These results will also be shared among artforms, and crucially, with audiences – in a joined-up away across the entire continent.”

Notes for editors

The ACuTe project runs from 2022 to 2025 and has been supported with co-funding from the European Union.


Press Contact

Christy Romer, Communication Manager at European Theatre Convention 


ACuTe Launch Event: Ars Electronica Festival

Digital Theatre - Democratization of a Medium

Thursday 8 September 2022, 12:30 – 14:00, @ Kepler Hall (Johannes Kepler University Campus) 


  • Heidi Wiley, Executive Director, ETC
  • Mikael Fock, Director, Conceptualist and Scriptwriter
  • Michael Eickhoff, Head of Dramaturgy, Academy for Theatre and Digitality, Dortmund/Germany
  • Paulien Geerlings, Head Dramaturge, De Toneelmakerij
  • Alex Verhaest, Video artist
  • Taavet Jansen, Curator, Researcher, R&D
  • Airan Berg, Circus of Knowledge Director, JKU - Johannes Kepler Universität Linz
  • Moderated by Blair Stevenson, Principal lecturer in the Department of Media and Performing Arts at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, and Vanessa Hannesschläger, Head of European Projects at Ars Electronica

What is the truly transformative element in moving from theatre to digital theatre? How does the medium transform in a space in which the line between performers and recipients blurs?

In this panel, we want to explore how a new approach to audiences will shape the (digital) theatre scene of Europe and beyond in the coming years. A new understanding of the concepts of and relationships between theatre, audience, performance, and space is what constitutes the digital transformation of theatre as a medium. 

The audience is invited to exchange ideas with the panelists about possible future applications of the digital concepts in theatre and about how they want to be involved in its development.

This panel is open to all festival visitors, no prior booking required. The event will be recorded and will be available on demand after the event.

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