Die Hamletmaschine

April 2015 – NYC. Heiner Müller’s Post Modern Masterpiece A unique production with live improvised music by RMA Performed in the original German


From Wikipedia: “Hamletmachine (in German, Die Hamletmaschine) is a postmodernist drama by German playwright and theatre director Heiner Müller. Written in 1977, the play is loosely based on Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The play originated in relation to a translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that Müller undertook. Some critics claim the play problematizes the role of intellectuals during the East German Communism area; others argue that the play should be understood in relation to wider post-modern concepts. Characteristic of the play is that it is not centred on a conventional plot, but partially connects through sequences of monologues, where the protagonist leaves his role and reflects on being an actor.”

The full text of the play can be found here: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/german/hmr/232Literatur/hamletmaschine.html

An English translation by Carl Weber, NYU professor and scholar, can be found here: http://www.galerie-raskolnikow.de/paddavis/pages/Hamlet2.html

This production of Die Hamlet Maschine is unique, incorporating live improvised music into the action of the drama. The actors and musicians form a unified performing ensemble, cast members and players creating a dynamic and spontaneous performance that allows the text of the play to achieve its powerful intensity and impact.

The play will be performed in its original German version by native German-speaking actors. Texts and an English translation will be provided.

The play is a set of five monologues in five acts that takes the Shakespearean drama Hamlet as its point of departure, with the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia exploring their roles in the classic drama and discovering their new identities and purposes. Hamlet transcends his historical role, coming to terms with his historical struggle and attempting to define himself as a modern existential being. Ophelia does the same. Her character encompasses all women, and rejects oppression and subjugation. The playwright created stage directions that were intentionally difficult or unrealizable. A new character, the Narrator, was created that interjects the stage directions and comments on the drama. The five acts each bear titles:
Act 1: Familien Album (“Family Album”)
Act 2: Das Europa der Frau (“The Europe of Women”)
Act 3: Scherzo
Act 4: Pest in Buda, Schlacht um Groenland (“Pest in Buda, Battle for Greenland”)
Act 5: Wildharrend/In der Fürchtbarren Rüstung/Jahrtausende (“Wildly Anticipating/In the Fearful Armor/Eons”)

The play is intentionally unperformable in the traditional sense. Apropos of this, Müller made this comment: “…its unperformability certainly stands for stagnation.” This production grapples with this issue by a reliance on the text of the play to convey the context and meaning of the drama in conjunction with the music which functions as the “id” to support, contradict and ultimately blend in gestalt with the “ego” of the play’s text. Using improvisation as opposed to strictly defined composition allows the drama to encounter itself on psychological and physical levels, reaching highs and lows in a fluid manner.

The play will be preceded by a pre-performance introductory talk by a drama scholar and Q & A session.