Essentializing Shakespeare in the Shakespeare Aftermath: Dmitry Krymov’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It), Matías Piñeiro’s Viola, and Annie Dorsen’s A Piece of Work: A Machine-Made Hamlet

Abstract

This essay demonstrates that some of the more venturous reenactments of Shakespeare undertaken in the age of new media may productively range from the most basic, foundational forms of theatrical presentation to nonrepresentational forms of postdramatic, indeed, posthuman expression. These stagings exploit the multiplicity of approaches available in the Shakespeare aftermath—as much a state of consciousness or awareness as a temporal condition, in which all things Shakespearean are always already present and available for reenactments, adaptations, or appropriations reflectively grounded on avowed Shakespearean precedents. Dmitry Krymov’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) (2012) and Matías Piñeiro’s Viola (2012), a filmic spin on Twelfth Night, radically displace Shakespeare’s playtexts and plots while generating vital lines of engagement with their core concerns. Krymov and Piñeiro displace their “originals” in productions that are themselves arguably original. More projective than retrospective, constructive than reconstructive, they suggest that difference-making reproduction may offer a more promising road forward to sustaining the “essence” of long-established plays than do more expressly faithful but difference-deadening productions. Annie Dorsen’s algorithmically generated A Piece of Work: A Machine-Made Hamlet (2013) offers a more determinedly radical project of disassembly, disintegration, and serial (re)production. Dorsen’s deconstructive methodology largely consists of the projection and vocalization of verbal montages drawn from Hamlet that are so maddeningly methodized as to be rendered largely incomprehensible. Dorsen’s replacement of human agency, human presence, and dramatic interaction by posthuman agency, digital projection, and affectless vocalization in all but one corner of her Piece of Work may well be dismissed as an experiment that fails to merit replication. But the project’s capacity to generate an endless succession of new Hamlet texts after the one we thought we had always already known makes it a powerfully emergent model of Shakespearean stagings to come.