Magazine article Stage Directions

Forgetting the Formula

Magazine article Stage Directions

Forgetting the Formula

Article excerpt

Annie Dorsen talks about making whatever you want.

While she is best known to the mainstream as the director of the fantastic rock musical Passing Strange - which chronicled the life and exploits of American musician Stew, particularly the time he spent living in Berlin trying to find himself and his place in the world - Annie Dorsen has also worked on a variety of more experimental shows in the United States and throughout Europe. Her most recent production in America was Hello, Hi There, an unorthodox show between two chatbots - no, we're not kidding - where two laptops, inputted with thousands of lines of random dialogue by Dorsen, created a conversation by randomly linking thoughts that seemed to connect thematically. The resultant "conversations" were occasionally abstract, often hilarious and infrequently stuck in a loop. Either way, it was quite an entertaining and thought-provoking way to sit in front of two projection screens for an hour.

Stage Directions: How are you doing?

Annie Dorsen: I'm significantly more relaxed than I was last weekend. I have to say that this piece has been surprisingly more stressful to run than I expected. I had this idea when I was making it that the running of it was going to be a breeze because in a way there's nothing to do. You press play and it does the thing. But in fact the lack of control is anxiety-producing, so in an emotional way it's been stressful. Now I'm relaxed.

Is it stressful watching the two chat bots get caught in a loop?

Absolutely, because you don't know how long they will loop and what the dramaturgy will turn out to be. And, of course, there's always a fear that something will really go wrong with it and it could theoretically get into a loop that it can't get out of. As a director I'm used to sensing audience movements - where they're really engaged, where they start to lose the track - so sometimes I can feel a shift in the audience temperature and then I don't know if the bots are going to get them back. …

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