Brooklyn-based theatre artist Annie Dorsen is one of the 26 recipients of the 2019 grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the MacArthur “Genius Grants.” The fellowship, which comes with a stipend of $625,000 paid in quarterly installments over five years, awards unrestricted fellowships to individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits as well as a capacity for self-direction.
Dorsen is a theatre director and writer who makes work at the intersection of technology and machines, and human nature. Her piece Hello Hi There featured two custom-programmed chatbots having a conversation using text culled from the transcript of the 1971 philosophical debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault.
"I make algorithmic theatre," says Dorsen. "I collaborate with computer programmers, and together we design software that performs theatre in place of or alongside human actors."
Her other works include A Piece of Work, in which the text of Hamlet is run through a series of algorithms, Yesterday Tomorrow, and The Great Outdoors. She is the co-creator and director of Passing Strange, which was seen Off-Broadway and subsequently on Broadway, and since 2017, has served as a visiting assistant professor of practice with the Committee on Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago.
The 2019 class of MacArthur Fellows, an honor awarded to top achievers in a variety of fields, also includes choreographer Sarah Michelson, poet and novelist Ocean Vuong, visual artist Jeffrey Gibson, guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson, and writer Valeria Luiselli. Visit Macfound.org/programs/fellows/ for more information.