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  • Robert Wilson
    Hamlet Machine

    Show at Teatro Astra, Vicenza, Italy | photo Lucie Jantsch

    Among the brilliant series of provocations initiated by Heiner Müller in his HAMLETMACHINE is a moment when an actor slowly and methodically tears Müller’s photograph in half. With Müller, one learns quickly to postpone questions until the provocations have multiplied. His ground rules are plain enough: he prefers drama to other forms because it enables him to “say one thing and say the contrary”, and isn’t suggesting self-destruction; rather he is offering himself stripped to essentials. The torn photograph is like the text itself -- stripped, blasted, divided. Nothing in HAMLETMACHINE can be taken as found, least of all our dramatic expectations or our experience of Shakespeare. But if this were its only innovation, it would be just another version of the fragmentary, non-linear forms that have been disrupting drama since Woyzeck. His recent plays -- HAMLETMACHINE goes back to 1977 -- are histories with a difference, gathering into their explosive energetic fields a remorseless sense of loss and destruction. He might mix different periods into his text, or pieces from his own biography. Unlike most Americans, however, he is using the stage as public discourse rather than private confession. Müller’s discourse is embedded in his confrontation with theatrical possibility. Still an East Belriner, but freely traveling in the West, he is calling a plague on all our houses. If theatrical texts can act as public documents, they can do so only as they are willing to deny the truth of history as normally reported. Müller’s plays are such denials, suggesting an exhaustion that can be overcome only by theatrical process itself. In the absence of coherent ideology and leadership, the playwright adresses us from unexpected, dislocating barricades. “The political task of art today,” says Müller, “is precisely the mobilization of imagination.” And so he does what little he can do. Which turns out to be a lot. HAMLETMACHINE is a six-page scenario in five parts that stands, like most of Müller’s plays, as an artifact waiting for a director whose imagination can be mobilized. Taken literally, the text appears to be a little more than Dada scribble: Ophelia’s heart is a clock; Hamlet begins by saying “I was Hamlet,” but later says he was Macbeth; the third part is called a “Scherzo” and takes place in the university of the dead; the actor playing Hamlet is not supposed to notice that stagehands are putting a refrigerator and three TV sets on the stage; and in the fourth part, Hamlet splits the heads of Marx, Lenin, and Mao with an ax. Even if any of this could be literally embodied, there would be no point. Müller’s ideal mobilizer has to be more cunningly theatrical -- more provocative even -- than Müller’s wildest dreams.

    Concept, set and lights design, direction > ROBERT WILSON

    Co-director > Ann-Cristian Rommen
    Collaborator to light design > John Torres
    Collaborator to set design >Marie de Testa
    Costumes > Micol Notarianni
    By the original design of William Ivey Long
    Make-up design > MANU HALLIGAN
    Original dramaturgy > Wolfgang Wiens

    Music > Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
    Original sound design > Scott Lehrer
    Assistant director > Giovanni Firpo
    Sound operator > Antonio Neto & Dario Felli
    Light board operator > Aliberto Sagretti
    Stage manager > Camilla Piccioni
    Technical director > Giuliana Rienzi
    Set construction > Ottorino Neri
    RW personal assistant > Owen Laub
    Internship employee > Ilaria d’Agostino & Anita Ricci

    Special thanks to Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

    With the performers of > Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico: Liliana Bottone, Grazia Capraro, Irene Ciani, Gabriele Cicirello, Renato Civello, Fran- cesco Cotroneo, Angelo Galdi, Alice Generali, Adalgisa Manfrida, Paolo Marconi, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Michele Ragno, Camilla Tagliaferri, Luca Vassos, Barbara Venturato

    Project by > Change Performing Arts
    Producer > Franco Laera
    Production delegate > Virginia Forlani
    Production assistant > Elisa Crespi, Maddalena Papagni, Akiko Sugiyama & Andrea Villa

    New version based on the original production
    premiered on May 7, 1986 at New York University, New York

    Commissioned by Spoleto Festival of 2Worlds
    For Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico