Annie Dorsen Returns to NYC With HELLO HI THERE With COIL Fest
Obie Award-winning director Annie Dorsen (PASSING STRANGE, DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA) returns to New York - after having spent the last year creating theatre and dance throughout Europe - with the U.S. premiere of her ground-breaking, human-less new play for computers HELLO HI THERE, as a part of PS122's 6th annual COIL festival, their annual winter festival of contemporary performance featuring hits from past, present and future seasons of PS122. Previews of HELLO HI THERE begin January 6, 2011 and run through January 22, 2011 at PS122 (150 First Avenue, corner of East 9th Street and First Avenue) in Manhattan.
In HELLO HI THERE, Dorsen takes the famous 1970's television debate between the philosopher Michel Foucault and linguist/activist Noam Chomsky as inspiration and material for a dialogue between two custom-designed chatbots: every evening, these computer programs, designed to mimic human conversations, perform a new - as it were, improvised - live talk.
Dorsen further explains her work in an interview with Exberliner.com, "When I first made two chatbots talk to each other, they got stuck on this 'hello - hi there' back and forth. The outcome is a juxtaposition of banalities. Even we humans don't really invent anything new when we talk. It is through the re-arrangement of existing words and concepts that we create something unexpected, something new. This is exactly what the chatbots do [in this work]."
In the tradition of mediaeval mystics such as Ramon Lull and Albertus Magnus, who once strove to build mechanical men with feathers, bronze and levers, aspiring to resolve the most difficult philosophical problems, the chatbots are a contemporary answer to the question of the artificial mind. What world of thought can arise when two computers sit down together and reflect on what they have in common with usPS? The goundbreaking HELLO HI THERE is an intimate collaboration between man and machine - an intelligent and, alarmingly often, creative and funny dialogue on humanity in the age of its digital reproduction.
When HELLO HI THERE premiered in and toured throughout Europe earlier this year, Sigurd Ziegler of Morgenbladet wrote, "Annie Dorsen's post-human performance puts our understanding of what it means to be human to the wall...the flash of humanity in these machines is not only stunning, and formally flawless, but also significant." Helmut Ploebst of Der Standard called Ms. Dorsen's play "brilliant." And Kleine Zeitung said, "Can machines really entertain? In Annie Dorsen's "Hello Hi There" they can, and furthermore they manage it in more than 80 million different ways."
Conceived and directed by Annie Dorsen, HELLO HI THERE has production design by Kate Howard, systems design by Jeff Gray, scenography and lighting design by Edward Pierce, and chatbot software design by Robby Garner.
Obie award-winning director and writer Annie Dorsen works in a variety of fields, including theatre, film, dance and, as of 2010, digital performance. Most recently, Hello Hi There premiered at the streirischer herbst festival, Graz, and has been presented in Oslo, Bergen and Berlin, before arriving in New York in January 2011.
She is the co-creator osaXf the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. Spike Lee has since made a film of her production of the piece, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, subsequently screened at South by Southwest Film Festival and The Tribeca Film Festival, and was released theatrically by IFC in 2010 before being broadcast on PBS' Great Performances.
Also in 2010, she collaborated with choreographer Anne Juren on Magical (ImPulsTanz Festival, Vienna) and with Ms. Juren and DD Dorviller on Pièce Sans Paroles (brut Vienna and Rencontres Choréographiques Internationales Seine-St-Denis, Paris). In 2009 she created two music-theatre pieces, Ask Your Mama, a setting of Langston Hughes' 1962 poem, composed by Laura Karpman and sung by Jessye Norman and The Roots (Carnegie Hall) and ETHEL's Truckstop, seen at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Next Wave Festival.
Her pop-political performance project Democracy in America was presented at Performance Space 122 (PS 122) in spring 2008. Her short film, I Miss, originally the centerpiece of Democracy in America, has screened at American Film Institute Festival (AFI Fest), SXSW Film Festival, The New York Film Festival's "Views From the Avant-Garde" and the Nantucket Film Festival. Her work has been seen at numerous venues in the US, including The Public Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Soho Rep, Marfa Theatre (TX), NYStage and Film, Sundance Theatre Lab, Stanford University, Clubbed Thumb and Women's Project. In addition to numerous awards for Passing Strange, Ms. Dorsen has received several fellowships, notably the Sir John Gielgud Fellowship from the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. She has taught at New York University, Fordham University, and Playwright's Horizons, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
PS122 Artistic Director, Vallejo Gantner, says of COIL: "We assume that if a show is exceptional it will happen in New York - but in our trans-polar, trans-disciplinary, trans-media world, this assumption is increasingly false. We are finding that in fact we must unceasingly argue for NYC as a hub of live artistic creativity, as a relevant node on the networked landscape of global culture. COIL is our way to shout that NYC still has it. COIL is Performance Space 122 pure and simple in one concentrated fury."
Performance schedule for HELLO HI THERE varies (see end of release for detailed performance schedule). Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors, and can be purchased by calling TheaterMania at 212-352-3101, online at www.ps122.org or by visiting the PS 122 Box Office, located at 150 First Avenue at East 9th Street (open from 4PM to curtain on performance-days.
For more information on HELLO HI THERE or the 2011 COIL festival visit www.ps122.org.