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This urgent and provocative study explores contemporary Shakespeare performance to bring a sense of theatre as technology into view. Rather than merely using technologies, the theatre's distinctively intermedial character is essential to its complex technicity; the changing function of gesture and costume, of written documents in the making of performance, of light and sound, and of the interplay of live and recorded acting complicate the sense of theatre as a medium. In a series of probing discussions, Worthen interrogates the interaction of live and mediated acting onstage, the impact of written media from the handwritten scroll to the small-screen app in acting as a technē, the work of Original Practices as an interactive modern theatre technology, the economies of theatrical immersion, and the consequences of an emerging algorithmic theatre, providing a richly theoretical reading of the stakes of theatre as an always-emerging technology.
Taking a 'performance studies' perspective on Shakespearean theatre, W. B. Worthen argues that the theatrical event represents less an inquiry into the presumed meanings of the text than an effort to frame performance as a vehicle of cultural critique. Using contemporary performances as test cases, Worthen explores the interfaces between the origins of Shakespeare's writing as literature and as theatre, the modes of engagement with Shakespeare's plays for readers and spectators, and the function of changing performance technologies on our knowledge of Shakespeare. This book not only provides the material for performance analysis, but places important contemporary Shakespeare productions in dialogue with three influential areas of critical discourse: texts and authorship, the function of character in cognitive theatre studies, and the representation of theatre and performing in the digital humanities. This book will be vital reading for scholars and advanced students of Shakespeare and of performance studies.