The Department of Theatre will present Hamletmachine March 18-22 in the Anne R. Belk Theater of Robinson Hall. German playwright Heiner Müller wrote Hamletmachine in 1977 after completing a translation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Considered a leading example of postmodern theatre, it has been called “a powerful and enduring creation” by the New York Times. The play does not follow a standard plot, but presents a series of monologues that dispel, according to the playwright, “the illusion that one can stay innocent in this our world.”
Heiner Müller, who died in 1995, is considered Germany’s greatest dramatist since Bertolt Brecht and wrote nearly 30 stage works. Although little known in the United States, in Europe he is among the most performed 20th-century playwrights.
Müller’s deconstruction of Hamlet was inspired by his severe disappointment in the failure of communism in East Germany (he lived in East Berlin), and his despair over the division of Germany following World War II – a country “cleft in twain,” like Gertrude’s (Hamlet’s mother’s) heart. The renowned experimental theatre director Robert Wilson mounted the widely acclaimed English-language premiere of the play in 1986 at New York University.
In conjunction with its production of Hamlet this past fall, the Department chose to present Hamletmachine as part of a year-long celebration of Shakespeare, who died 400 years ago. The production is directed by Robin Witt, assistant professor of theatre, and includes 27 student actors. While Hamletmachine, like Hamlet, comprises five acts, it is just 50 minutes long.
Performances are March 18, 19, 21 and 22 at 7:30 pm and March 20 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $18 for general admission; $12 for UNC Charlotte faculty, staff and alumni; $10 for seniors; and $8 for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 704-687-1849 or online.
A talkback with Dr. Caroline Weist, Visiting Professor at Davidson College, will be held after the performance on Saturday, March 19. Caroline Weist is a theater and performance studies scholar. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 for her dissertation on the entangled concepts of prosthesis and “Heimat” (“home”) in 20-century German theater. Her primary research interest lies in performance studies, specifically in the interactions between theatrical performance and disability, gender, and queer theory, and she has published on plays by Bertolt Brecht and Georg Kaiser. Informed by her experience as managing director of a German-American theater troupe, her current book project explores how theater illuminates the complex and contradictory history of the term Volkskörper (“the body of the people”) in 20th-century German culture.