Ugly Duckling Presse

A Piece of Work
A Piece of Work

Annie Dorsen

Theater/Performance | $18 $14
Spring 2017
Buy""To be and not to be.” That was not exactly the question, last time I checked."
Mixing live performance with algorithms and interfaces, A Piece of Work is the second project in Annie Dorsen’s “algorithmic theater” series. A digital Hamlet for a post-humanist age, A Piece of Work deploys a set of ingeniously designed computer algorithms to generate real-time adaptations of Shakespeare’s original play. New scenes, songs, scores and visuals emerge from an intricate web of technology. With an introduction by Dorsen, and screen-shots of the system as it runs, this book elaborates both the technological and the poetic procedures of algorithmic theater. Excerpt ˇ


to be, And not to be: such is the faith:
To be, and not There be: These is The body:
to be, and not to be: all Is a colour:
to be, and not To be: those is a exercise:
to be, or not to be: some is a man:

to be, And not to be: all Is the fortune:
Whether 'tis nobler by the pause to say

To be, and not to be: all is The precurse:
while 'tis stronger in a name to put
the nations and uses of poor appointment,
and To keep eyes at the life of bodies,

to be, and not to be: all is the sister:
Lest 'tis nearer for the line to speak
an words and reasons of hot joy,
and to think sides into the custom of gods,
and to breaking pray them? to play: to bring;
Neither lesser; And in The skin there curd we bend
a land and the four good officers
that love is day in, 'tis a true-love
alone to be strutted. to quit, to make;
to hear: well there sleep: O, There's the kingdom; Close ˆ

About the Author

Annie Dorsen
Photo credit: Maria Baranova-Suzuki
Annie Dorsen is a director and writer, whose works explore the intersection of algorithms and live performance. Her most recent project, Yesterday Tomorrow, premiered at the Holland Festival in 2015, and has been presented since at Berliner Festspiel as part of Maerzmusik, Ultima Festival (Oslo), PS122's Coil Festival (NYC), at T2G as part of Festival d'Automne, along with several others. Her previous algorithmic theatre projects, A Piece of Work (2013) and Hello Hi There (2010), have both toured extensively in the US and internationally. She received the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for theater, a NYSCA Individual Artist grant for work in new technology, an Artist Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and an Obie Award for her work on the Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she co-created and directed. From 2017, she is a Visiting Artist Professor at University of Chicago. Her upcoming project, The Great Outdoors, will premiere in August 2017 at Noorderzon Festival in Groningen, NL.

Advance Praise

As Hamlet is Western lit's archetypal work about human consciousness, it's a cunning move to ask a nonhuman one to interpret it…—Alexis Soloski
While algorithms are nothing new, in a world that has become a massive and ever-growing collection of data which only algorithms seem to have the capacity to efficiently access and interpret, it is their undeniable indispensability that is a relatively new phenomenon. What happens to theatre in this algorithmically driven world, and what becomes possible when algorithms and the software they constitute are put to work to make theatre? A Piece of Work, a piece of algorithmic theatre developed by Annie Dorsen in 2013, takes this question as a problem to be solved...—Ioana Jucan, TDR