Prometheus Firebringer

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Robert E. Buckholz BOARD CHAIR




PROMETHEUS FIREBRINGER Written, Directed, and Performed by ANNIE DORSEN On the Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage Off-Broadway Premiere Video & Systems Design RYAN HOLSOPPLE

Lighting Design RUTH WALDEYER


Software Design & Programming Producer SUKANYA ANEJA NATASHA KATERINOPOULOS Press Representative BLAKE ZIDELL & ASSOCIATES

Production Dramaturge TOM SELLAR

General Manager JEREMY BLUNT

First preview September 15th, 2023 Opening night September 21st, 2023 Original support for Prometheus Firebringer was provided to Bryn Mawr College by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia. The Off-off-Broadway premiere was co-presented by the Chocolate Factory Theater. Deloitte is Theatre for a New Audience’s 2023-2024 Season Sponsor.

Principal support for Theatre for a New Audience’s season and programs is provided by the Bay and Paul Foundations, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Jerome L. Greene Foundation Fund in the New York Community Trust, The SHS Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and The Thompson Family Foundation. Major season support is provided by The Arnow Family Fund, The Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, Sally Brody, Robert E. Buckholz and Lizanne Fontaine, Constance Christensen, The Hearst Corporation, The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund, Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Audrey Heffernan Meyer and Danny Meyer, The Polonsky Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation, Daryl and Joy Smith, Stockel Family Foundation, Anne and William Tatlock, Kimbrough Towles and George Loening, Kathleen Walsh and Gene Bernstein, and The White Cedar Fund. Theatre for a New Audience’s season and programs are also made possible, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities, Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Open captioning is being provided, in part, by a grant from NYSCA/TDF TAP Plus. 2

T H E AT R E F O R A N E W A U D I E N C E 360° S E R I E S


The Dangers of AI Intoxication by Annie Dorsen


Interview: "Influence is Not the Same as Algorithm" Annie Dorsen in conversation with Tanya Polland


Artificial Intelligence: A Tragedy by Tom Sellar


Prometheus: A Brief History by Helene P. Foley


Computer Time: A chronologized (and incomplete) catalog of moments in the history of computing technology by Madeline Pages


Cast & Creative Team

About Theatre For a New Audience 31



Mission and Programs


Major Supporters

Notes Front Cover: Design by Paul Davis Studio / Mo Hinojosa This Viewfinder will be periodically updated with additional information. Last updated September 23, 2023.

Credits Prometheus Firebringer 360° | Edited by Nadiya L. Atkinson Resident Dramaturg: Jonathan Kalb | Council of Scholars Chair: Tanya Pollard | Designed by: Milton Glaser, Inc. Publisher: Theatre for a New Audience, Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director Prometheus Firebringer 360° Copyright 2023 by Theatre for a New Audience. All rights reserved. With the exception of classroom use by teachers and individual personal use, no part of this Viewfinder may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Some materials herein are written especially for our guide. Others are reprinted with permission of their authors or publishers.






“The Dangers of AI Intoxication” by Annie Dorsen originally appeared at, 30 August 2023. Used with permission from Theatre Communications Group.


iven my background making theatre that explores how new technologies are affecting human culture and cognition—a body of work I call “algorithmic theatre”—it seemed inevitable that I would eventually make a piece using generative AI models. So, after three years of playing around with GPT-2, Dall-E, and their successors and competitors, Prometheus Firebringer premiered at Bryn Mawr College in January, was seen at the Chocolate Factory in May, and will be presented at Theatre for a New Audience this fall. The piece riffs on the lost final play of Aeschylus’s Prometheus trilogy as a way of thinking about the relationship between technology and power. On one Annie Dorsen. ©Stephen Dodd.


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side of the stage, everything is made by commercially available AI products: A set of AI-generated theatre masks, animated by AI-generated computer voices, perform scenes made by GPT-3.5 (the same model that runs ChatGPT). On the other side of the stage, I give a talk that reflects on some of the questions these models raise. I like the piece, but I don’t feel easy about it. Artists need to think seriously about how these models work, what they do, and what they mean for the future of both making and experiencing art. I made my first algorithmic theatre piece in 2010. Hello Hi There featured a couple of 1970s-era chatbots, using technology that was already noticeably outdated. Like ChatGPT and other large language models, these old-fashioned chatbots were programmed to mimic human conversation. Unlike ChatGPT, the chatbots I worked with were not trained on vast quantities of text, didn’t operate



Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.

according to complex statistical analysis, and did not string words together on their own. Instead they selected from a list of pre-written sentences that I had assembled and laboriously organized into massive decision trees. In the performance their dialogue can be charming, funny, and occasionally even poignant. They make bizarre grammatical mistakes, jump around erratically from topic to topic, and occasionally get caught in repetitive loops. Sometimes they sound like a pair of squabbling siblings or a flirtatious couple—but not for long. Sooner or later the illusion of a mind behind the language breaks down, and the audience confronts what they are really looking at: a dumb piece of computer code that receives an input, matches it to an output, and runs it through some speech software. Back then, I thought it critical to engage with computer-generated language and explore the profound questions about language and meaning it raises. I wanted to offer audiences an opportunity to reflect on the effects it produces, and if possible to demystify it. I took this statement from W.H. Auden as a directive: “Insofar as poetry, or any other of the

arts, can be said to have an ulterior purpose, it is, by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate.” But then, as they say, things changed. The technologies changed, and so did the economic and political environment in which those technologies developed. As the downsides to our increasingly mediated world become more apparent, working with AI no longer seems quite as defensible as it once did. From privacy concerns to workplace surveillance to facial recognition techniques to the proliferation of synthetic media, including deepfakes and misinformation-spewing Twitter bots, the harms keep piling up. And I’ve become more and more concerned about the role artists are playing in popularizing these technologies. By now I hope that the myriad problems with AI will be familiar to readers. The datasets are hidden, dated, sloppy, and nobody knows exactly what’s in them. The outputs are full of plausible-sounding nonsense. Those outputs are kept “clean” by criminally underpaid pieceworkers, mostly women, mostly in the global South, who risk their mental well-being working long hours filtering out hate speech, pornography, and violence. The models’ energy consumption is mindP R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R


THE DANGERS OF AI INTOXICATION boggling. The amount of data needed to make even marginal improvements in their performance leads tech companies to implement ever more invasive and persistent surveillance over our online lives. That vast amount of data, along with the computing power required to process it, translates into ever more market concentration in ever fewer hands. The impacts of all this are direct, immediate, and dire in just about every social context: healthcare, education, policing and incarceration, housing, employment, the administration of public benefits. Given this situation, it may seem trivial to worry about the role of art. But the seriousness of the harms is precisely why I worry. Artists are in danger of becoming unwitting propagandists for Big Tech. Some of us already are. We make the technologies seem interesting, cool, full of potential, maybe even beautiful. We create eye-dazzling immersive experiences, crowd-pleasing ChatGPT cabarets, spooky-weird images drawn from a mysterious land called “latent space.” Nobody wants to be a scold, and nobody wants to be left in the dust. But I think we need to do better.

ANNIE DORSEN There are a lot of stakeholders in the AI world with strong incentives to keep us enchanted and intoxicated. AI companies, their investors, the media… The more powerful we believe these tools to be, the more they seem to offer benefits that outweigh any associated harms. The hype serves to obscure or minimize some important questions: Who do these technologies profit? Whose culture do they advance? And at whose expense? On top of the harms mentioned above, there’s another one that affects artists directly. Image and text generating models run on reams of appropriated work by living artists. Tech companies like Stability AI, Open AI, and others train their models on work copied from the internet without artists’ knowledge or consent, and without crediting or compensating them. On the TWIML AI podcast, Stability AI founder Emad Mostaque describes his model as “two billion images, a snapshot of the internet, compressed down.” He goes on to joke, “Artists never make money, right?” Midjourney’s founder David Holz shrugged when Forbes asked if his company sought consent from living artists. “We weren’t picky,” he

Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.


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Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.

explained, meaning they just took everything they could find. The law will have to untangle whether what these companies are doing constitutes copyright infringement. But we don’t need courts to tell us that it is morally repugnant. And let’s be clear: These technologies were not designed to assist artists, they were designed to replace them. In the same podcast I mentioned above, Mostaque describes a “closed loop” scenario in which AI-generated prompts produce AI-generated scripts for AI-generated movies “performed” by AI actors. And that’s just the beginning. If you think you cannot be affected because you are not a concept artist, illustrator, movie extra, or TV writer, you are wrong. So artists have a choice to make. Do we want to put our skills and imaginations at the service of these tech companies, or not? And if not, what is the right way to push back? Should we reject these tools entirely, or try to use them to question them, reveal how they operate, and pierce the illusions? There may be no

perfect answer. But taking these questions seriously is the very least we can do. As scholar Dan McQuillan warns in his indispensable book Resisting AI: The main product of AI is thoughtlessness. The technology seems to offer the tantalizing possibility that we can skip all the work— of art-making, writing, or making any number of difficult or contentious decisions—and go straight to the results. What’s more, it promises to relieve us of responsibility for those results. So who cares if they’re wrong, shallow, discriminatory, or meaningless? Which brings me to my experiment in using generative AI to create material for a performance. I’m ambivalent about having used these tools, even to criticize them. I doubt I’ll do it again. With all the talk of how easy and “democratizing” AI models are, one might almost forget that making art is pleasurable and rewarding, even when—or maybe because—it’s difficult. Why would we want to automate that?





Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.

On August 31st, 2023, Tanya Pollard, Chair of TFANA's Council of Scholars sat down with director, writter, and performer Annie Dorsen to the creation process, AI as a tool or collaborator, and the stage Greek mythology. TANYA POLLARD I’m going to start with just a very

general question: how did you first conceive of this piece? What prompted it? ANNIE DORSEN It was a bit of a meandering road.

Somehow I never thought about the existence of a third play. But there had been a third play, called Prometheus Firebringer, and nobody knows very much about it. Only one line still remains. I thought kind of as a joke, “Oh, that’s perfect, you know, we’ll use machine learning to fill in the missing play.” (A lot of my pieces start as jokes). So I just started telling people that I was going to use machine learning to fill in the missing third play of the Prometheus Trilogy.

I always thought that at some point I’d have to make a piece about Prometheus, and separately I thought that eventually I would have to deal with generative AI models. I’d been avoiding doing that because after playing with them, I didn’t find them all that interesting. So last year or so I decided to bite the bullet and do both at once.

But turns out some people took the joke seriously and seemed to think that large language models would really be able to do that. That was interesting to me— what do we imagine these tools are capable of, and what kind of authenticity are we looking for in them? So I started there.

I knew about Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, and knew that there had been a second play, Prometheus Unbound, which exists only in fragments, and which Shelly wrote a version of in the 1820s.

It’s ridiculous in a way. Scholars have been trying for decades or even centuries to find any evidence in the historical record about what the play may have been, who the characters are, what story it tells – and we think these souped-up autocomplete programs are somehow going to be able to do it?


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"INFLUENCE IS NOT THE SAME AS ALGORITHM" Most scholars seem to think that Prometheus Firebringer was the third play of the trilogy. Even though it sounds like it would be the first one, telling the story of the theft of fire, before Prometheus’ punishment. But apparently it was the final play, and tells the end of the story, in which Prometheus capitulates to Zeus and rejoins the Olympians in some capacity, and tells Zeus what he wanted to know about the future. Because we only have Prometheus Bound, in which Prometheus refuses to give in, the tradition is to think of Prometheus as a rebel, a symbol of liberation. A friend of mankind. We’ve been living with this myth that teaches us to think of technology as a force for human liberation, as a source of progress and freedom from the drudgery of work. But also, because Prometheus represents both technology and art, we have the notion of the artist as rebel, and the notion of the technologist as rebel. But, for Aeschylus, that’s only the first part of the story. I’ve been wondering, what if we’d had all three plays. If we’d known the whole story, that Prometheus ends up surrendering and gets coopted by the state, by state power. Maybe we would have a different baseline assumption, that new technologies may be liberating or “democratizing” in some ways, but they will generally end up serving the interests of the powerful. TANYA POLLARD Yes. ANNIE DORSEN Maybe we would’ve always had a

sharper sense of technology as both a poison and a cure. It doesn’t, in and of itself, give people any power. What technological development has most often done, in fact, is increase the power of elites and the state. Weapons of war, weapons of control, weapons of economic concentration. TANYA POLLARD Right. ANNIE DORSEN Right. So, that was the political side.

So I had made the masks and I had the dumb scenes that GPT3 was producing. During our first rehearsals, a friend came to rehearsal to watch and she said, “Well, it’s just so banal. You can’t just present this, you need to—"


TANYA POLLARD Frame it. ANNIE DORSEN Right. “You can do this, but it can’t

just be left on its own.” I’d already been frustrated by the project, because I never just take a commercial product and put the results on stage. I’ve always worked with programmers so we’re writing our own code and designing pieces that talk back to the technology, not just show it off. And I couldn’t really figure out how to crack, how to break open the LLM (Large Language Model). It’s so locked up. You can’t get in there to see what the code is doing. You can’t know why it’s making this choice or that choice. The people who made it don’t exactly know why it’s doing what it’s doing. It’s really like playing the slots. You put your prompt in, like a quarter, you pull the lever, and you see what it gives you. And then if you don’t like that, you change a word in the prompt, pay another quarter, try again. Now what does it give you? And how about now? TANYA POLLARD Yes. ANNIE DORSEN It’s not really an interesting process.

You’re essentially subjugated to this tool that is unapproachable. The other thing I’ll say is that there was a lot of time pressure. We had dates for the premiere [at Bryn Mawr] in January ’23, and it was already December or something. TANYA POLLARD Well, there’s nothing like a deadline

for generating inspiration! ANNIE DORSEN I’d already signed the contract and

I’d gotten the money, so I had to show up, ha. And make something that I could show. So, as my friend said, with the time you have, the only thing you can possibly do is give a talk alongside it. I had the idea to cobble together a talk from verbatim quotations pulled from different sources. There’s a superficial similarity to what ChatGPT does in terms of having access to everything you can find online. And recombining it. (The tech people would say, that’s not what it does—but yes ok, I know very well that’s not what it does on a technical level.) P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R


"INFLUENCE IS NOT THE SAME AS ALGORITHM" Mind you, the whole team and I had been thinking that this version for January ’23 was probably a placeholder, and we would end up changing it all before we showed the piece again. But then we started liking it. TANYA POLLARD So the deadline worked, to spark

inspiration. ANNIE DORSEN It started growing on us. Still,

though, I always feel like I want to qualify when I talk about this piece, that it was made very quickly, that it’s just a little thing. Now, here we are. TANYA POLLARD I love this. Now I want to ask you

about how you came up with the idea of creating a speech composed entirely of other people’s words. How did that that strategy, that collage, come into the process? ANNIE DORSEN It was really from reading the

philosopher Bernard Stiegler, I think. I took a week’s vacation between Christmas and New Year’s with my sister. I was panicking about going to Bryn Mawr and not having anything. So I went back to my original sources. Stiegler is like the original source for the piece. He was a deep reader of the Prometheus story, particularly the story of Prometheus and Epimetheus from Plato. He uses that story to think through the relationship between technology and time. So over the holiday I was reading his book Symbolic Misery. That one has a little bit of a polemic feeling to it, he wrote it try to address the increasing popularity of the extreme right wing in France. So, you know, relevant to my interests, let’s say. As I read it I kept thinking, “Oh, I wish I could just say this, and I wish I could just say this and then—” TANYA POLLARD And then you felt, I could. ANNIE DORSEN And then I started constructing. It

was a slow, and really fun process. It took a while to figure out a structure and find the right tone. TANYA POLLARD And did you come up with an

outline of what you wanted to say and then find the sources? Or did you find things you were reading that you wanted to incorporate and then build from those? ANNIE DORSEN More the latter. I also knew I didn’t

want to just take everything from books. I wanted to 10

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include some conversations, some more thinking-outloud type of material. TANYA POLLARD Right. ANNIE DORSEN So that it would be a mix of voices. And also, I wanted to include how people other than me are thinking about these things. TANYA POLLARD Yes. I love that. ANNIE DORSEN It was a lot of trial and error. TANYA POLLARD Of course. I love the way that

you talk about borrowing rather than stealing; it also struck me as I listened to the piece the word that came to mind for me was collaboration. You quoted Simon Critchley at one point describing tragedy in terms of the experience of partial agency or limited autonomy. And I found it beautiful and strangely affecting how I could see that experience of partial agency at play in the speech. But I also now understand it as a model of collaboration, in that I hear your voice and your mind working with the other minds and the other words that you are culling, gathering, invoking, structuring, juxtaposing. Did it feel like a collaborative process to you? ANNIE DORSEN Absolutely. It does feel like

borrowing. Because you know, you borrow someone’s sweater because you’re going to go wear it— TANYA POLLARD Yes. ANNIE DORSEN —with your own pants or whatever. TANYA POLLARD Yes. You make it yours, at least partly. ANNIE DORSEN One of my professors sent me an

article about something or other with AI. And there was that line in it, “I want to say that influence is not the same as algorithm.” Maybe that’s the central question about the talk or even the whole piece: what’s the qualitative or even metaphysical difference between what I’m doing and what this automated predictive technology is doing. TANYA POLLARD As I was listening, I thought of

the myth of Echo and Narcissus. After Echo loses the power to form her own speech, she finds a way to

"INFLUENCE IS NOT THE SAME AS ALGORITHM" communicate through using someone else’s words: a form of partial agency, or limited autonomy. ANNIE DORSEN That’s a nice connection. TANYA POLLARD I’d like to ask you more about

engaging with the model of Greek tragedy, especially about the relationship between emotion in Greek tragedy and emotion in an artificially generated play. I was thinking about Aristotle’s famous description of tragedy as inducing pity and fear in its audiences. You quote Simon Critchley identifying tragedy with deep, traumatic affect. And I was wondering about your sense of the relationship between deep, traumatic affect and this performance piece. What reactions do you imagine or hope audiences might have and what reactions have you seen or heard about? ANNIE DORSEN I never really make pieces that are

designed to elicit a particular emotional response. That’s not ever been a part of my practice. I think I interpret what Critchley is saying to mean that tragedy is a representation of deep, traumatic affect. I think that phrase comes from a section in which he’s talking about the exaggerated emotional content of the speech, the characters. So the immoderate emotional expression is of the performers and of the text. The audience’s experience, the catharsis, I really have nothing to say about it. It’s hard for me to put myself in the position of an audience member in the context of Greek tragedy. I don’t have any feeling for what their affective environment was like, and how that affective environment was influenced by representation, images… When I have seen Greek tragedy performed in the more or less straightforward way, I don’t think that I’m having a cathartic experience the way that Aristotle describes it. But on the other hand, did anyone? We have no idea, right? TANYA POLLARD Right. ANNIE DORSEN In the ChatGPT scenes—well,

there’s two things in my mind. One is that the language is so banal. I mean, that’s part of what those models do, right? They run on probabilities, so you get something likely, something like an average. Which means that you’re not really dealing with


outlier language, you’re dealing with middle of the road language. So, the banality probably isn’t going to produce strong emotional effects, based on its poetic power. There might be emotional effects based on the content of what the scenes say. TANYA POLLARD Right. ANNIE DORSEN The other thought is about

something getting a lot of attention these days, since ChatGPT was released commercially: the so-called Eliza Effect. The name comes from the first chatbot, called Eliza, which was written by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966, a very rudimentary chatbot, not very convincing. But even so, Weizenbaum discovered that people were having these strong emotional reactions to the conversations they had with Eliza. So the Eliza Effect is the phenomenon of people projecting a mind behind computer-generated language. TANYA POLLARD Interesting. I’d never heard of this,

but it makes a lot of sense. ANNIE DORSEN We project thought and emotion,

or caring or listening or any of those human things, to any entity that’s producing language and seems responsive to you. It’s almost a version of puppetry in a way. But it’s distinct from puppetry because it’s specifically about language production. TANYA POLLARD I find that fascinating. When I

was an undergraduate, my college roommate had one of these very early programs where you typed a conversation and the program would respond to you. I remember she was complaining about her boyfriend at the time being dismissive, and this proto-chatbot asked her, does this remind you of your father? And she had this jolt—on one hand, you could imagine how it could be programmed to identify this as a relevant next question, but it resonated for her, and she was shocked. I was there, and I remember also being shocked; it felt impossible not to attribute some kind of agency to it. ANNIE DORSEN It’s an instinctive reaction to the way

language works. It’s not about being gullible or not knowing how the thing works or anything else. But the P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R


"INFLUENCE IS NOT THE SAME AS ALGORITHM" effect can wear off, the more you play with the chatbot. ChatGPT and the others are all so convincing, the effect will probably last a lot longer. But I don’t know. I have a feeling maybe their usefulness will be much more prosaic, in terms of writing first drafts of student essays, and churning out spam and stuff like that. TANYA POLLARD I have a very different example,

not verbal, but I remember reading a New Yorker article about robots being used as pets for older people in nursing homes. They found there was actually a significant health consequence derived from having them as pets, even when they weren’t actually animate— not necessarily as large a contribution to health as having a cat or a dog, but still a significant response. ANNIE DORSEN ChatGPT doesn’t need caring for; it

doesn’t need feeding. TANYA POLLARD No. ANNIE DORSEN I assume some of that benefit comes

from having a routine, and responsibility for something outside of yourself. But it sounds dystopian to me. Instead of addressing people’s real needs, for community and care, we give older people what’s essentially a talking pet rock to play with and tell ourselves we are doing right by our elders. Anyway. I don’t know anything about mechanical robots; that’s not my area. TANYA POLLARD Yes. It’s a different question. It just

strikes me that part of the emotional response is what one’s own mind is projecting onto something. And that’s where I think there’s a commonality. ANNIE DORSEN It’s not partly that—it’s entirely that. TANYA POLLARD That makes sense to me as the element

that yokes together the chatbot with the robot pets. ANNIE DORSEN Yeah. TANYA POLLARD When I watched a recording of your

piece, I was struck that I was actually affected by it. I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t expecting that. I’d anticipated experiencing it—especially the lecture—at a primarily cerebral, intellectual level. The first time that I watched it, on my computer screen, I found it fascinating, but I was focusing on understanding it, and piecing things 12

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together. Then I listened to it again later, on my phone, while I was on my bicycle. And I found that in some ways I felt it more then, because I wasn’t looking at the headings and I wasn’t distracted by seeing the citations. ANNIE DORSEN I think it’s appropriate that the lecture

is more compelling than the chatbot. Chatbots don’t know what they’re saying, and they aren’t motivated by desire to communicate. It’s meaningless, basically. Whereas what I’m saying is stuff that I actually want to share with the other human beings in the audience. TANYA POLLARD I guess I was thinking that the

lecture would be a more intellectual experience, while the “play” would involve immersion in a story. But I see what you mean; that makes sense. ANNIE DORSEN It means the audience is implicated

in what I’m saying; I’m hoping that what I’m talking about will be interesting to you. So, I’d be very concerned if people were finding the language model outputs more interesting or affecting than what I’m doing. That would be an upsetting discovery for me. TANYA POLLARD What kind of impact would you

like to have? ANNIE DORSEN I don’t want to make art that is

just a didactic thing where there’s only one way to understand it. I try to make pieces that activate a set of ideas for the audience, so they can have their own ideas. Making connections or thinking things that I would never expect. But that’s on the art side, that’s the goal. As a political matter, an economic matter, a social matter, I want these tools to be rejected. I would like us to decide we don’t want them. And I’d like them to be regulated nearly out of existence, I’d like it if they were cabined off and used as toys, the way I use them. Or allowed to do a few very specific things, but not believed to do or allowed to do or supported in the doing of everything. The notion that these models are a step on the way to an artificial general intelligence, for example, is truly dangerous. These models are not a step on the way to that. I hope people approach them critically, with an awareness of the current harm that they cause. So we don’t get distracted by the fantasies of hypothetical



Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.

future harms or benefits that the guys who own the companies want us to be thinking about. TANYA POLLARD One last question, you quote

Simon Critchley describing, saying that tragedy shows what is fragile, what is perishable and what is slow moving about us. I love that quote, and I wondered what you would say about what your piece shows us about what is fragile, perishable and slow moving about us. ANNIE DORSEN Theater is always about time. About

the passage of a certain period of time that we all spend together. In that sense, all theater is about what’s perishable and contingent about us. Tragedy maybe more so, because of how it deals with our fundamental lack of control over our lives. But I also think what Stiegler says is important, that we share a powerful bond: we’re all here alive at the same moment. That deserves recognition as a very special thing, and could maybe be relevant to how we communicate, how we treat each other, how we work together and live together.

There’s a tendency to wonder, what do we all really have in common in a pluralistic, even tribal, country like the US? Stiegler suggests, maybe our only bond is that we are here together, and maybe that’s enough. It could be enough to sustain a totally different sense of moral commons, just to think, well, right now, today, everybody that I’m in contact with, we’re alive at the same time. And isn’t that amazing?


TANYA POLLARD (Chair, Council of Scholars) is Professor of English at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Her books include Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages (2017), Drugs and Theater in Early Modern England (2005), Shakespeare’s Theater: A Sourcebook (2003), and four co-edited collections of essays on early modern drama, emotions, bodies, and responses to Greek plays. She appeared in Shakespeare Uncovered: Macbeth (PBS, 2013) with Ethan Hawke and in Shakespeare Uncovered: King Lear (PBS, 2015) with Christopher Plummer. Beyond her involvement with TFANA, she has worked with artists and audiences at theaters including the Red Bull, the Public, the Classic Stage Company, and the Roundabout. A former Rhodes Scholar, she has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, NEH, Whiting, and Mellon foundations. P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: A TRAGEDY BY TOM SELLAR Adapted from a February 2023 article published in Norsk Shakespeare Tidsskrift (Norway). Republished by permission.


s the audience arrives, they read the words of an oracle-like text as it appears, word by word, projected on an upstage wall. “The play opens with a scene of reconciliation between Prometheus and Zeus,” it says on one night. Suddenly that plot synopsis disappears and another version unfolds: “The play opens with a battle between the forces of Zeus and Prometheus, a battle of technology and power,” it predicts this time—the opposite of the first scenario. Followed by another variation. And then another. The opening of this play may be none of these things—and all of them. For this is a performance of, and about, the generating of scenarios, a series of tragic speculations happening in real time, courtesy of artificial intelligence systems deployed, in part, to imagine a play and reckon with the great myth of progress. Annie Dorsen’s newest live work—“algorithmic theater” is her term—premiered at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia in January 2023, was presented at the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, Queens in May, and now opens at Theatre for a New Audience for a September run. Though Prometheus Firebringer has been long in the making, it is a piece that speaks to the present moment, created in a year when AI systems developed over decades emerged with new capabilities that have captured the popular and political imagination. OpenAI’s much-hyped ChatGPT, a significant advance from previous language models, has attracted tens of millions of new software users exploring the tool for marketing, writing, propaganda and art-making, among other uses. Prometheus Firebringer does not stage Aeschylus’s Prometheia with digital tools, nor does it re-interpret Greek drama in light of critical theory or with a Regietheater twist. Instead Dorsen’s new project invites us, via a lecture-performance and eerily beautiful renderings of electronically generated tragedy, to consider the spaces between myth and reality, between human and machine-based intelligence. The project caps an exhilarating period for Dorsen, who was named a MacArthur “genius” Fellow in


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2019—the top honor for U.S. artists and thinkers. This season, supported by a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Dorsen remounted many of the algorithmically based projects she has created since 2010 for “Algorithmic Theater: An Annie Dorsen Retrospective” at Bryn Mawr College and Philadelphia Fringe Arts. Seeing a decade’s worth of shows in a short span of time, viewers could trace the technical development of algorithmic chatbot operations along with Dorsen’s critique of the technology. Hello Hi There (2010), A Piece of Work (2013), and Yesterday Tomorrow (2015) show how the artist has explored the communicative power and temporal disruption of computer-generated performance as it creates conversations, orates, writes poetry, and devises musical scores in front of the audience’s eyes, sometimes for live performers to speak or sing. Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.



Her oeuvre has playfully measured machine creations against core historical works of intellectual and creative achievement—from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Beatles songs and the philosophy of Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky. For Prometheus Firebringer (for which I served as dramaturg), Dorsen now turns to the very foundation of Western humanism. Aeschylus probably wrote the Prometheia cycle in the fifth century BC, but only the trilogy’s first play survives: Prometheus Bound, in which the title character, a Titan rebel chained to a rock, recounts how he stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans as a technical tool. The god Zeus banished Prometheus to a remote island for thousands of years as punishment. Fragments of the second drama, Prometheus Unbound, survive from quotations in later periods, but only one line survives from Prometheus Firebringer, the third and final play which apparently determined Prometheus’s actions after he wins freedom, with his knowledge of the future. What was lost with that final play is essential to know: If the rebel eventually capitulated to Zeus after giving humans tools to fight power, what will be the implications for mortals? Dorsen is drawn to speculate in this unknown space of the Greek imagination for the same reasons revolutionaries have been drawn to the Prometheus myth for centuries: the stolen fire represents techné, as Bernard Steigler wrote: the promise of progress across history, the capability of humanity to sustain itself, tested against the most powerful forces. When it comes to artificial intelligence—a research program begun in the middle of the 20th century—this may be our Promethean moment. What data has been used to train ChatGPT for the knowledge it shares? How does it reflect the biases and limitations of its sources, and what does that suggest for our future? These questions and others arise as Dorsen sits at a table at the side of the stage. She reads a lecture—a series of thoughts about what defines tragedy: knowing and not knowing at the same time. She muses about memory and how it is altered by our reliance on technology, about what machines are learning from us, about how

Annie Dorsen in Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

we know (but don’t know) the limits of our collective undoing, an approaching catastrophe. As we listen to her compelling, sometimes humorous remarks, we notice gaps between sentences, shifts in tone and style. Everything she says—every single word—is, in fact, a quotation from Steigler, from Reddit threads, from interviews, from pop psychology books, from government hearings and from all kinds of other sources. A citation for each text fragment displays on a screen behind her as she reads. Is this a display of traditional human intelligence-gathering, an argument built like a scholar from existing knowledge found in books and published sources, arranged to make a point? Or, because of the text’s sometimes abrupt juxtapositions and strung-together quality, is Dorsen rather a human acting like an AI program, borrowing thought from any locatable source in order to satisfy a command? As she asks: is her speech a simulation of thought—or is it actual thinking? The real thing—or theater? P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R




Alternating with this monologue, a Chorus of Orphaned Children—imagined from the Greek original—sing and converse with Prometheus. The orphans are simulations of ancient masks, created by 3D-imaging technology and mounted on stands. Small sound speakers sit behind their mouths. The masks light up and speak whenever the algorithm generates text for them. Prometheus is a larger mask, suspended separately, across the stage. (The AI program running the show responds, in different ways at each performance, to a pre-set series of prompts created by Dorsen and the production team to create certain kinds of dialogue.) Their voices are hollow, high-pitched, disembodied. They chant, suggesting the ancients. They sometimes speak in rhyme, while Prometheus talks of his dilemma with little affect, a flat and nasal baritone, mechanically offering his thoughts.

The Mercury Store, a new artist residency space in Brooklyn in October 2021, Dorsen and the Prometheus team looked at image prototypes for the masks, explored vocal options for the bots, configured systems, recorded voice prints of a few performers, and read broadly, including works by Stiegler and leading classicists like Simon Critchley. In Philadelphia in January 2023, the work turned more granular: writing the lecture portion and experimenting with the prompts and their sequence. (An example of a prompt we experimented with in early rehearsals: “Write a scene in which the Chorus of orphans, who have no father or mother, wonders if the past is a good predictor of the future. The scene is at least 20 lines. They ask how humanity will endure memories and primeval experiences built upon a knit pattern of relationships.” A prompt like this would be refined many times depending on the results, with additional information supplied, until it reliably generates an engaging scene.) Most sessions involved Dorsen sitting on an empty stage next to the masks while the team watched from the front on their

I worked with Dorsen and the creative team as dramaturg for the project, made in two residencies and an unconventional rehearsal process. First, at

Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.


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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: A TRAGEDY laptops: myself, sound designer Ian Douglas-Moore, Video and Systems Designer Ryan Holsopple, and the Lighting and Technical Designer Ruth Waldeyer. Beyond exploring the fate of humanity, Dorsen has questions about the future of algorithmic theater—at least the kind she has been making. “When I started Hello Hi There [in 2010] it was even before Watson, if anyone remembers that chatbot who beat somebody in Jeopardy,” Dorsen told an audience at a post-show dialogue back in January. “It was in this weird moment when chatbots and natural language programming were nowhere, there had been this abandonment of the entire project after Clippy. People were asking ‘why are you even interested in this stuff? It’s nothing.’” “Then two years later, in 2012, I went to an AI conference and there was this big paper being delivered about how natural language programming and chatbots and the notion of linguistic AI were back,” she said. “And the reason it was ‘back’ was because in the old days you would hit this wall where there wasn’t enough text for a chatbot to work with. If you wanted to have a complete database for one of these programs to draw from, you would have had to have ten million people typing away for ten million hours inputting all of human language. But in 2012 this guy got up [at the conference] and said, ‘Well, guess what? We just did all of that over the last four years and now everyone who has been posting on social media or on blogs or doing whatever on the internet has actually accomplished this thing. And it’s going to change everything.’ Statistical analysis was going to be this big thing, it was all very proto-proto. And now here we are ten years later and there’s this generative AI explosion.” But the new models come with problems as well as promise. Engaging them theatrically feels less urgent now. “Doing this project with ChatGPT is a really interesting book-end to the retrospective,” she reflects. “I won’t do it anymore, I don’t think. This project was my effort to give generative models a fair shake. I’m incredibly suspicious of them. I don’t like them. I don’t think they’re good for us. They’re bad for the world in a lot of different ways. But nothing is simply one thing, and I wanted to see what I could

TOM SELLAR do with them. But I think it’s the end, pretty much, of algorithmic theater. I mean, I don’t what that means, to say that it’s the end. Certainly the way I’ve worked for ten years thinking about algorithmic logic as a process that one could follow in a theatrical situation—that doesn’t seem super promising. It’s just dated because there’s no process with these things [new OpenAI]. It’s like playing the slots. You’re not programming anything, you’re not engaging in any kind of back-and-forth process with them. You’re giving them a prompt and then seeing what it gives you. So you can fiddle around with the prompts a little bit, you know, it’s like you put another nickel in, you see, does it bring up three cherries again or does it bring up two lemons and a cherry, you know? As a process it’s not very interesting. As a thing to think about, it’s super interesting. Does that sound depressing? I didn’t mean it to be depressing. I think there are a lot of other things to do in art than play with these toys.” Plenty of other facets of Dorsen’s work were on display in this year’s Bryn Mawr retrospective. For instance Spokaoke, an event in which spectator-participants speak major works of oratory karaoke-style, offers rich insight into how we perform public and political speech today—just one example of her longtime investigation of how communication struggles with form. For the Philadelphia program, Dorsen also published the first collection of her many essential writings on algorithm, theatricality, time, and the implications of machine learning. The catalog offered a parallel retrospective of sorts, demonstrating her importance as a key theorist of theater today—not just of technology. As she notes in a crucial section of Prometheus Firebringer, the Greeks show us that nothing is simply one thing.


TOM SELLAR is a dramaturg, critic, and curator based in Brooklyn. He edited the collection Annie Dorsen: Algorithmic Theater, Essays and Dialogues 2010-22 and served as dramaturg for Dorsen’s productions Prometheus Firebringer and The Slow Room. Formerly chief theater critic for the Village Voice, he is Editor of the journal Theater and Professor of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University. P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R



Prometheus and Atlas, Laconian black-figure kylix, by the Arkesilas Painter, ca. 560-550 BC. Museo Gregoriano Etrusco - Vatican Museums


n different versions of his myth, the rebel Greek god Prometheus (meaning “Forethought’) was chained by the divine ruler of the universe Zeus to a rock in the remote regions of the Caucasus mountains for creating, defending, and/or educating humanity. Every day, an eagle (or vulture) tortured him by devouring his ever-regenerating liver. Zeus is eventually reconciled with Prometheus due to his prophetic knowledge about a divine son destined to replace his father Zeus and allowed him to be liberated by the famous hero Heracles. In the earliest Greek version of his story by the poet Hesiod (8th-7th century BCE), a cunning 18

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Prometheus attempted to deprive the gods of their proper proportions of sacrifice by trickery and to steal fire for humans. His rebellious challenge to Zeus’ positive ordering of the universe led to the separation of men from the gods and condemned them to agricultural labor, and, following the creation of the infamous first woman Pandora, to mortality and procreation. In the more influential and sympathetic version of the myth in Prometheus Bound, a play probably performed from 463-430 BCE—attributed to the Athenian poet Aeschylus, but probably by a later imitator—Prometheus tried to persuade the rebellious

PROMETHEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY forces of the universe not to use force against Zeus and the Olympian gods. When he failed, he went over to Zeus’ side with his mother, Gaia/Themis (the chief earth goddess/goddess of order); his counsel led to Zeus’ victory. Yet Prometheus was then punished for his attempt to defend humanity against a tyrannical Zeus who had intended to annihilate mortals. Fifthcentury Athenian democracy celebrated its defeat of kings and tyrants who previously governed their city and celebrated Prometheus as god of technology and pottery in a festival featuring torch races. The god of fire and technology who nails Prometheus to a cliff in the opening scene of Prometheus Bound, Hephaistos, only reluctantly capitulates to the tyrannical Zeus’ surly henchmen, Kratos (Power) and Bia (Violence). A chorus of daughters of Ocean arrives to sympathize with Prometheus and remain loyally at his side and willing to share his suffering until he is subjected, as the god Hermes arrives to predict, to the further punishment of a decent to the underworld below, Tartarus, and torture by the eagle. The chorus’ more politically adaptive father Ocean urges accommodation to Zeus to no avail. In this play, Prometheus also demonstrates his sympathy for humanity at the arrival of Io, a mortal woman punished by Zeus’ divine wife Hera because Zeus desires her. She has been turned into a cow and forced by a gadfly to wander in a state of near madness from Greece to Egypt. Prometheus gives the suffering Io hope for eventual release from these tortures. In Egypt, Zeus will give her back a human shape and make both intercourse and childbirth painless for her. Io’s son by Zeus will found an Egyptian dynasty and some of her female descendants will return to Greece and dwell in the Greek city of Argos. Prometheus predicts that he will eventually reconcile with Zeus after revealing his secret knowledge and be rescued by Heracles, who will kill the eagle and release the god. This play could have formed part of a trilogy of plays, one of which dealt with Prometheus as Firebringer, and one with his reconciliation with Zeus (Prometheus Unbound), but we have no reliable evidence to confirm this. Filling possible gaps in this hypothetical trilogy has long proved tempting.

HELENE P. FOLEY The Aeschylean Prometheus (who even created humans in other versions of the myth) taught a childlike and confused humanity all the skills (Greek technai) needed to survive. Enabled by the gift of fire, cave-welling humans learned to build houses of brick or wood. Prometheus helped them to predict the seasons, invent numeracy and writing, domesticate animals, and yoke them to plow or to race in chariots, build sailing ships, and mine and work metals. He taught humans the use of medicines, how to practice divination, and how to interpret the risings and settings of the stars. He gave them blind hope to mitigate their awareness of death. According to Plato’s version of the myth in his dialogue Protagoras, however, only Zeus could teach humans how to govern and order communities with wisdom and justice. If Prometheus Bound was followed by Prometheus Unbound, a reconciliation between Zeus and the intransigent Prometheus may also have included a transition from tyranny to enlightened monarchy for Zeus. Prometheus’ myth and above all the Aeschylean version had a long afterlife in Greek and Roman poetry and the visual arts. Milton’s Hesiodic Prometheus was linked with Satan. For the nineteenth-century English romantics like Shelley (Prometheus Unbound), Prometheus was the heroic resister of tyranny. For Goethe, Schlegel or Byron he was the embodiment of liberty; for Nietzsche the prototype of the revolutionary artist; for Marx an archetype representing revolutionary will. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus viewed the Prometheus figure as a hubristic scientist. More recently, the fire brought by Robert Lowell’s play Prometheus (Yale 1967) eventually led to the atom bomb, while Richard Schechner’s New York 1985 Prometheus Project: Four Movements and a Coda linked the bombing of Hiroshima with the sexual abuse of Io. In the English-speaking world, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have also reimagined the play to address slavery, authoritarianism, unjust imprisonment, and torture, as well as class conflicts. To give a few examples, in 1964, Black Titan P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R


PROMETHEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY featured a Promethean Martin Luther King bound by klansmen and an Io sold as a slave in New York’s East River Amphitheatre. In London (2005) and New York (2007), the actor David Oyelowo was bound in chains in a pose suggestive of the crucifixion in a translation of Prometheus Bound by James Kerr that evoked the colonial slave trade in the West. Tom Paulin’s Seize the Fire (1989) attacked the military-industrial complex as a form of Zeus-like tyranny. Amnesty International co-sponsored a rock musical version in 2011 starring a dynamic Gavin Creel and directed by Diane Paulus with book and lyrics by Steven Sater at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. The play aimed to “free prisoners of conscience and aid individuals at risk all over the world.” Each performance named such threatened individuals and invited the audience to send postcards and petitions to support Amnesty International’s work. Several important productions addressed class issues through the Aeschylean play. In the UK, the poet and playwright Tony Harrison’s 1998 pessimistic film Prometheus addressed mistreated British working-class miners in Yorkshire. By contrast, the 1999 Steelbound in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, written by Alison Carey and directed by Bill Rauch, responded more optimistically to the closing of local steel plants. The Paul Manship's Prometheus (1934) at Rockefeller Center, New York City.

HELENE P. FOLEY play was performed in a cavernous, abandoned plant where a laid-off Prometheus was welded to a 275ton pouring ladle in a Christ-like position. Members of the local community—women, children, and steelworkers—visited Prometheus as the steelworkers laid down their tools and commemorated their story. It closed with the release of the Prometheus figure who rejoined his community. Ancient visual arts tended to focus above all on the release of the suffering Prometheus from the eagle by Heracles/Hercules, whereas European paintings from the 16th century focused on Prometheus’ isolation and his torture. Among modern responses in the U.S., on the other hand, Paul Manship’s famous 1934 image of Prometheus carrying civilizing fire to America stands on the lower plaza of New York’s Rockefeller Center. By contrast, in a fresco in an underpass in South San Francisco, Nicolai Larsen’s 1996 Prometheus Brings Fire to Man shows a transition from the gift of primitive Promethean fire to enacting a postindustrial technological future. Modern poetry in English has tended, by contrast, to explore the more ambivalent sides of the myth. Among many responses, in A. D. Hope’s “Prometheus Unbound,” Prometheus is released by Zeus to wander the earth and observe what the gift of fire did to humankind; Ted Hughes’ “Prometheus on his Crag (20)” speculates about what the ominous eagle represents, whereas Laurie Scheck’s “To Io, Afterwards” explores Io’s experience of the world as a cow. Prometheus’ later reception continues to confirm the ambiguity of the gifts that Prometheus and his divine world offered to humanity.


HELENE P. FOLEY is Claire Tow Professor of Classics, Emerita at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of books and articles on Greek epic and drama, on women and gender in Antiquity, and on modern performance and adaptation of Greek drama. Author of Ritual Irony: Poetry and Sacrifice in Euripides, The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Female Acts in Greek Tragedy, Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage, and Euripides: Hecuba and co-author of Women in the Classical World: Image and Text, she edited Reflections of Women in Antiquity and co-edited Visualizing the Tragic: Drama, Myth and Ritual in Greek Art and Literature, Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage, and Aristophanes and Politics. 20

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COMPUTER TIME: A CHRONOLOGIZED (AND INCOMPLETE) CATALOG OF MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING TECHNOLOGY BY MADELINE PAGES “We might think we are through with the past, but the past is not through with us. 1 The past is now encoded in ponderous databases, and it can be readily and endlessly re-interpreted, reshuffled, recombined, and rearranged. 2 But even so. 3 [E]ven in the era of cybermodels, what the mind feels like is still as the ancients imagined it, an inner space – like a theater – in which we picture, and it is these pictures which allow us to remember.4” – 1Simon Critchley & 2L.M. Sacasas & 3Wataru Watari & 4Susan Sontag, compiled and quoted by Annie Dorsen in Prometheus Firebringer 3200 B.C.E. Estimated fabrication date of the oldest surviving Sumerian writing stylus. In the 1960s, engineer Ben Hurley will design the “Light Pen” for digital interfaces at MIT. The first Palm Pilot 1000, complete with stylus, will hit the market in 1996. 950 B.C.E Estimated fabrication of the earliest known prosthetic limb, a wooden toe, which was found on the foot of an Egyptian mummy. There is even earlier evidence from Egypt of the creation and use of dentures. 9th century B.C.E. Estimated compilation of the Chinese divination text I Ching, or the Book of Changes. Though the leap between this text and the understanding of binary numbers that would become the foundation for computer programming language tens of centuries in the future is based on a deeply Eurocentric approach to the Chinese language, the I Ching would nevertheless be inspirational for the early 18th-century mathematical theory that would in turn become the basis of all computer programming languages and a major influence on cybernetic theory. 5th century B.C.E. Aeschylus writes Prometheus Bound, a dramatic interpretation of the myth in which Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to humanity. “The remarks that follow constitute only one more attempt among many to assist readers who are not classical scholars to a more complete understanding of a very great and very puzzling play.” – David Grene, introduction to a 1956 English translation of Prometheus Bound 1st century The Roman engineer and architect Vitruvius publishes De architectura. This treatise included descriptions of water-powered machines, which were the earliest devices to operate without the need for human labor. (Coincidentally, Vitruvius also wrote about theaters and would influence the design of theater spaces during the European Renaissance.) Heron (or Hero) of Alexandria, mathematician and inventor, publishes numerous treatises on technological advancement including Pneumatica, on his experiments with the earliest known steam engines, and On Automata-making or the construction of ‘wonder-making’ devices. Though Heron may have invented the steam engine, it took another seventeen-odd centuries to put it to widespread industrial use. 9th century The Banū Mūsā, three Persian brothers who were prominent mechanical engineers and patrons of the sciences in Baghdad, write The Book of Ingenious Devices, containing early examples of mechanical and water-powered automation. “The West is accustomed to seeing its own intellectual development as having been shaped, in the main, by internal factors. This view of history traces our heritage back from the Industrial Revolution to the Enlightenment and Renaissance and, thence, via monkish scribes of the Middle Ages, to the fountainhead: Greece, Rome and the ancient empires of the Fertile Crescent. But the picture is incomplete because it ignores the intermediation of the civilizations of Greek Christendom (or Byzantium), Hindu India, Confucian China and Islam.” – Donald R. Hill, “Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East,” Scientific American (1991) P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R




12th century Mechanical engineer Al-Jazari, from modern-day border of Syria and Iraq, designs a series of automated clocks with features like birds that move, doors that open, and human figures that play instruments. 1600 (estimated) Shakespeare writes Hamlet. In 2013, Annie Dorsen will use Hamlet as source material for the algorithmic theater piece A Piece of Work. In the Euro-American literary canon, Hamlet is revered as a superior reflection on human nature and interiority, distinguishing all that is “human” from the “non-human.” “…[T]heatre often claims to aspire to…a state of immediacy, but in practice it is a medium made of memory. That’s apparent in everything from its fascination with its own history, its reliance on recognizable action unfolding in time, its mode of production through repetition and the remembering of lines and moves, and its use of language, which in the moment of performance re-calls past situations and subjectivities, desires and needs. The natural language algorithms we use in this performance are simple—they skip, sort, replace, and sequence. They don’t know what they say, or what they have said before. They don’t know what grief is, or revenge, or an entrance, or an exit. They make decision after decision, over and over, generating a nonstop flow of effects without causes, and causes without effects.” - Annie Dorsen, “Talk about A Piece of Work: A Group Self-Interview,” TDR: The Drama Review (2015) 1765 James Watt designs what would become known as the Watt steam engine. Though not the first steam engine (credited to Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 model), Watt’s design became the definitive model, symbolic of the Industrial Revolution of 18th- and 19th-century Europe. 1804 Joseph Marie Jacquard patents the “Jacquard machine,” which was designed to automate the process of manufacturing complicated textiles on a loom by controlling the loom’s operation with punched cards. This operating system would be an inspiration for early computer hardware. Scott Shepherd in Annie Dorsen's A Piece of Work (2013). Photo by Bruno Pocheron.

1811 The Luddite movement emerges out of Nottingham, England. While in the modern day the word “Luddite” is most often applied “with contempt to anyone with doubts about technology” (Thomas Pynchon, “Is It O.K. To Be A Luddite?”, 28 Oct 1984), the original Luddites were semi-militant labor reformers in the English textile industry who opposed the swift replacement of skilled workers with a combination of automated machinery and cheaper, unskilled labor. 1818 First publication of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. “Seek happiness in tranquility, and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.” – Victor Frankenstein 1832 Charles Babbage completes his Difference Engine No. 1, a mechanical calculator that was intended to be part of a huge machine for calculating and printing mathematical tables. The following year (1833), Babbage completes designs for the Analytical Engine, his most lauded contribution to the history of computing. Though none of Babbage’s computing machines were ever completely constructed in his lifetime, a Difference Engine based on Babbage’s designs was finally built in 2000.


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1843 Ada Lovelace publishes her English translation of “Sketch of the Analytical Engine" by Luigi Menabrea, a summary of Charles Babbage’s 1840 lecture on his Analytical Engine in Turin, Italy. Lovelace’s translation included sixty-five pages of notes on Babbage’s ideas. In these notes, she speculates about the general use (beyond mathematical calculations) of the theoretical Analytical Machine and wrote out a complete computer program for it. For this, Lovelace is considered the first computer programmer. She is also the first person to publish anything on the potential applications of computing beyond mathematics—the kind of computing we engage in every day. 1847 English mathematician George Boole publishes The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, in which he introduces what would become known as “Boolean algebra.” Boole’s concept-based (as opposed to numbersbased) mathematical logic, like that of his 18th-century precursor Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, would be fundamental to the development of digital programming languages. Across the pond, Thomas Alva Edison is born. In his lifetime, the American inventor’s laboratories would develop some of the most important early technologies in the history of recorded music and film, as well as components of electrical devices that would make possible the computer as we know it today. 1859 Publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. In 1948, the mathematician and Alan Turing would apply Darwin’s theory of evolution to computing, inspiring an entire sub-field of computer science known as evolutionary computation. Evolutionary computation is the inspiration behind Annie Dorsen’s work Yesterday Tomorrow (2015), in which The Beatles song “Yesterday” is algorithmically transformed into “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. Annie Dorsen's Yesterday Tomorrow (2015). Photo by Maria Baranova.





1920 The word “robot” appears for the first time, in the play R.U.R. by Karel Čapek (Čapek always gave his brother Josef credit for coining the term). 1927 Release of Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis, the tale of an evil robot woman leading a workers’ rebellion in a hyper-industrialized, dystopian future. 1933 On March 12, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addresses the American public in the first of his Great Depression-era radio broadcasts, known collectively as the “Fireside Chats.” This is one of the earliest uses of mechanical “social media” by a U.S. president to address constituents. “[T]he Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest examples of the use of the word ‘live’ in reference to performance come from 1934, well after the advent of sound recording technologies in the 1890s and the development of broadcasting systems in the 1920s…The reason why the appearance of recording technologies was not enough in itself to bring the concept of liveness into being has to do, I think, with the fact that with the first recording technology, sound recording, the distinction between live performances and recordings remained experientially unproblematic. If you put a record on your gramophone and listened to it, you knew exactly what you were doing and there was no possibility of mistaking the activity of listening to a record for that of attending a live performance.” – Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (2nd Edition, 2008) 1945 One of earliest electronic general-use computers, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), is completed. 1948 Claude Shannon writes The Mathematical Theory of Communication, an early exploration of the limits of human-machine communication. Shannon also identified the “bit” as a basic unit of information and of computation. In the same year, Norbert Wiener publishes Cybernetics, which would be a major influence on future research in artificial intelligence. Wiener is one of the first theorists to draw a connection between feedback loops, which machines can simulate, and intelligence. In Infinite Sun, produced in 2019, Annie Dorsen will explore the relationship between feedback loops as Wiener understands them and ritual chanting. Annie Dorsen's Infinite Sun (2019).


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1949 In April, the Manchester Mark 1 becomes operational. This early computer was the first to successfully execute a complete user program. Its “Williams-Kilburn tube” memory system (named for the inventors Frederick Williams and Tom Kilburn), which was the first “random-access memory” (RAM) digital storage device, would be used in several other early computers, such as the American IBM 701 and 702, the Soviet Strela-1, and the Japanese Tokyo Automatic Computer (TAC). “In 1950, the computer pioneer Alan Turing published a paper titled ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence,’ in which he conjectured whether computers could ever successfully imitate the processes of human thought. He proposed what became known as the Turing test, a trial in which a human volunteer would chat remotely with both humans and ‘chatbots’—computer programs designed to simulate human conversation—and attempt to determine the person from the processor.” – Alexis Soloski, introduction to a 2012 interview with Annie Dorsen, “Would You Like To Have A Question?,” published in Theater magazine. 1952 Grace Hopper completes the A-0 computer program, which allowed a user to use words instead of numbers to communicate instructions to a computer. 1954 Alan Turing commits suicide on June 7, at the age of 41. Although the cause of his death has been debated, for years prior to his death, Turing had been forced by the British government to undergo chemical castration because he was gay. “Alan Turing’s favorite movie was Snow White, and when he killed himself, he killed himself by eating a cyanide-coated apple because he liked the movie so much.” -Lucas Hnath’s A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney (2013) 1956 The Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence brings together major thinkers for what is considered to be the founding event for the field of artificial intelligence. This is also the first time that “artificial intelligence” is used as a term for this area of computing that combined some of the major themes of automata theory and of Norbert Wiener’s cybernetic theory, as well as other areas of data science relating to the “thinking” capabilities of machines. 1959 C.P. Snow delivers his multi-part Rede Lecture, “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” “…[T]he majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into [modern physics] as their neolithic ancestors would have had.” 1960 The term “cyborg” is coined by scientists Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline to describe technologically modified rats that they had been conducting experiments on to see if they could design a living creature to survive in outer space without a space suit. 1961 The first robot, as we understand them today, is installed in the General Motors plant in New Jersey. Unimate 001 was a large arm programmed to place hot pieces of metal in die casting machines. 1964 The robot K-456, created by Fluxus artists Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe, premieres in Robot Opera. Nam June Paik names this as the first appearance of a non-human performance artist. Marshall McLuhan declares “the medium is the message” in the field-defining text Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. 1969 An estimated 650 million people worldwide tune in to the July 20 television broadcast as Apollo 11 lands on the Moon. P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R




“The shattering of the limitation of earth’s gravitational field by cosmonauts and astronauts signaled not only a technological victory but also a victory of the imagination.” -Anne Collins Goodyear, Past Futures: Science Fiction, Space Travel, and Postwar Art of the Americas 1970 January 1 marks the start of the Unix epoch, the most common standard of computer time. 1971 Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault debate the characteristics of human consciousness on Dutch television. In 2010, this debate will become the primary subject of a live conversation between two chatbots in Annie Dorsen’s Hello Hi There. 1976 The Apple-1 becomes the first computer released by what is now Apple, Inc. 1981 IBM releases its first personal computer, simply named the IBM PC. 1990 English programmer and physicist Tim Berners-Lee designs the “WorldWideWeb” prototype. 1991 The Internet becomes publicly accessible. 1996 On February 10, IBM computer program Deep Blue wins a game of chess against the reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov. 2003 Launch of MySpace, the first global social network on the Internet. 2007 The first iPhone is released. Annie Dorsen's Hello Hi There (2010). Photo by W. Silveri.


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2012 Annie Dorsen publishes the treatise “On Algorithmic Theater” on the blog of Theater magazine. “I have been trying to reconcile this assessment of theater with my sense that the vision of eternal man is no longer defensible, and certainly not useful. I began thinking about a theater without human actors, in which that timeworn mirror becomes a glossy screen onto which human audiences project themselves, mediated by data, algorithms and interfaces…But the questions most fundamental to my creation of algorithmic theater are about what kinds of screens we are peering into, and what kinds of selves we are hoping to glimpse there.” 2013 Edward Snowden leaks classified information concerning U.S. involvement in global mass surveillance programs. “I live on the internet…Even when your government is pursuing a policy of exile, you can be everywhere and anywhere. That is powerful and liberating, and I think that will be one of the most important lessons learned as a result of the disclosures of 2013. You can’t shut people up the way you used to be able to.” - Edward Snowden, 2015 interview with PEN America 2015 OpenAI is founded, with the (stated) mission to “ensure that artificial general intelligence—AI systems that are generally smarter than humans—benefits all of humanity” ( The company designs open-access AI systems such as ChatGPT and DALL-E, which generate, respectively, textual and visual responses to user prompts. The data used to generate these responses has been “scraped” from the internet. According to OpenAI, ChatGPT "has limited knowledge of world and events [sic] after 2021 and may also occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content." “As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, [Chat]GPT-3.5 had not been released, and I do not have information beyond that date.” –GPT-3.5 in response to the question, “When was GPT-3.5 released?" 2017 Hanson Robotics’ humanoid social robot Sophia receives citizenship in Saudi Arabia. 2018 A former Cambridge Analytica employee leaks information about the company’s collaboration with Facebook to covertly collect and analyze personal data from 87 million Facebook users in order to influence global politics. 2022 At the Colorado State Fair art competition, Jason M. Allen’s “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” becomes one of the first A.I.-generated artworks ever to win a prize generally awarded to artists whose practice does not employ artificial intelligence systems. Major backlash from artists ensues. Allen is currently fighting for the copyrights of this and other A.I.-generated works. January 2023 Prometheus Firebringer premieres at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania as part of a retrospective of Annie Dorsen’s algorithmic theater. August 2023 The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rules that human authorship is required in order to copyright a work of art and, therefore, inventor Stephen Thaler is not able to copyright an artwork created by his computer system. In March, the U.S. Copyright Office had launched an initiative to reimagine copyright law in the age of AI tools like ChatGPT, and their guidelines require an applicant to demonstrate significant human authority in the creation of a work in order to receive a copyright.


September 2023 Among the concerns leading to the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes are the use of A.I. technology to generate scenarios and scripts, and to reproduce and manipulate actors’ likenesses. MADELINE PAGES is a dramaturg, writer, and educator. She recently received her MFA from Yale University, where she studied the relationship between theater and the sciences across history. P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R




Original support for Prometheus Firebringer was provided to Bryn Mawr College by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia. Prometheus Firebringer was supported in part by commissions from New York Live Arts’ Live Feed Residency Program with additional support from Partners for New Performance, and Media Art Xploration’s MAXmachina laboratory funded in part by Science Sandbox. The piece was developed with the support of the Eureka Commissions program created by Onassis Foundation, and the Mercury Store. The Off-off Broadway premiere was co-presented by the Chocolate Factory Theater. ANNIE DORSEN (Director) is a theater director and writer whose works explore the intersection of algorithms

and live performance. Her most recent project, Infinite Sun (2019), is an algorithmic sound installation commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial 14. Previous performance projects, including The Slow Room (2018), The Great Outdoors (2017), Yesterday Tomorrow (2015), A Piece of Work (2013), Spokaoke (2012), and Hello Hi There (2010), have been widely presented in the US and internationally. Her work has been presented at Performance Space New York (formerly PS122), Le Festival d'Automne de Paris, The Holland Festival, BAM's Next Wave Festival, New York Live Arts, Kampnagel Summer Festival, Kaaitheater, and The New York Film Festival's “Views from the Avant-garde” series, along with many others. She is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. A retrospective of Annie Dorsen’s algorithmic work was presented in 2022 at Bryn Mawr College with major support by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. The publication Algorithmic Theater: Essays and Dialogues, 2012-2022 was created as a literary companion to the event, collecting a decade of writings by and about Dorsen, including dialogues with artistic collaborators in addition to provocative essays on theater and technology. In addition to awards for Passing Strange, Dorsen received a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 2014 Herb Alpert Award for the Arts in Theatre. Annie Dorsen's Prometheus Firebringer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo by Maria Baranova.


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THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM IAN DOUGLAS-MOORE (Sound Design) is a musician and sound person. Whether performing solo and in small-group improvisational settings or creating sound installations, his work uses guitar, electronic sounds, and field recordings to discover the resonant properties of acoustic spaces. He plays regularly with David First’s Western Enisphere ensemble and various improvisers with an attention towards tuning. As a sound designer/composer, he has worked with movement artists like Moriah Evans and Lauren Bakst, as well as on several pieces by Annie Dorsen. RYAN HOLSOPPLE (Video and Systems Design) is a designer and programmer that works in theater, dance,

and exhibitions. Recent interactive design and performance works have been presented at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (Chicago), Chicago Laboratory for Electro Acoustic Theater, Elastic Arts (Chicago), The Chocolate Factory Theater, The American Folk Art Museum, The New York School of Interior Design, The Performa Archive, and Darling Green’s An Incomplete History of Printed Matter’s Art Book Fairs. Ryan has collaborated with Annie Dorsen on A Piece of Work, Yesterday Tomorrow, The Great Outdoors, and Infinite Sun. Other collaborations include work with Ginger Krebs, Mallory Catlett, Tom Fruin, Radiohole, Jim Findlay, Joe Silovsky, Sarah Michelson, Bill Morrison, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Pavel Zuštiak, Susan Marshall, Allard Van Hoorn, Lenore Malen, Lauren Bakst, Julia May Jonas, Shannon Sindelar, and 31 Down Radio Theater. Ryan performed with Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater productions of Maria Del Bosco and Panic! (How to be Happy). Ryan is the recipient of a Bessie Award for Outstanding Visual Design for Mallory Catlett’s This Was the End (The Chocolate Factory Theater). Ryan currently teaches in the Interactive Arts and Media Department of Columbia College Chicago. RUTH WALDEYER (Lighting Design) is fascinated by information flows and collaborative thinking—whether

between people or machines, in theater, event spaces, sports venues and outdoors. Her most recent lighting design work can be seen in Annie Dorsen’s Prometheus Firebringer and The River II by Jasna L. Vinovrški/ Public in Private, a play on grief and loss. Selection of radio works: 2020 "4 shots and the silence afterwards" with Uli Ertl at RBB Kultur, 2019 "Trans* in everyday life" and 2017 "Mrs. Sabotage—Multiple Sclerosis as an Opportunity" with Kim Scheunemann at WDR5, 2016 Marie Tharp—Der Riss im Rücken with Christina Ertl for SWR2, 2013 Milchmusik—Eine Klangexpedition zu einem Südtiroler Bergbauernhof (WDR5 and Deutschland Radio Kultur) with Uli and Ivan Ertl // 2012-2022 SissiFM—your feminist radio magazine at rebootFM. Ruth also works in curation, tech, and coordination for the venue ausland—a territory for arts and collateral damage founded in Berlin, in 2002.

SUKANYA ANEJA (Software Design and Programming) is an artist and engineer based in Brooklyn, whose

work explores code as a subject, creative medium, and a craft in itself. Recent work has been exhibited at Rhizome, Radical Networks, Data X Design and NeurIPS. She collaborates with artists, scientists and journalists to design and build custom software, and has worked with organizations such as The New York Times, Vox Media, and Columbia University.

TOM SELLAR (Dramaturge) is editor of the journal Theater and professor of Dramaturgy and Dramatic

Criticism at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University. He edited the collection Annie Dorsen— Algorithmic Theater, Essays and Dialogues, 2012-2022 as part of Bryn Mawr College’s 2022-23 performance retrospective and served as dramaturg for Dorsen’s The Slow Room at Performance Space New York in 2018.

NATASHA KATERINOPOULOS (Producer) works as an artist manager, creative producer and non-profit administrator. She has collaborated with Annie Dorsen, Maria Hassabi, Jonah Bokaer, Hamid Rahmanian, James McGinn and others, for projects presented in theaters, museums, galleries, and public spaces internationally. Venues include Brooklyn Academy of Music, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Performance Space P R OM E T H E U S F I R E B R I N G E R


THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM New York, The Chocolate Factory, Onassis USA, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts, Adrienne Arsht Center, Winspear Opera House, Centre Pompidou Paris, Vienna Secession, Kaaitheater, Blackbox Oslo, Lyon Biennale de la Danse, Brisbane Powerhouse, Sharjah Biennial. In the non-profit sector Natasha most recently served as Managing Director at The Center at West Park, a performing arts center based in the New York City landmark West Park Presbyterian Church. She previously held managerial positions at Jonah Bokaer Arts Foundation (formerly Chez Bushwick) and the Martha Graham Dance Company. Natasha studied Theater at the University of Patras, Greece, and Arts Politics at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. JONATHAN KALB (Resident Dramaturg) is professor of theatre at Hunter College, CUNY, and is TFANA’s

resident dramaturg. The author of five books on theatre, he has worked for more than three decades as a theatre scholar, critic, journalist and dramaturg. He has twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and has also won the George Freedley Award for an outstanding theatre book from the Theatre Library Association. He often writes about theatre on his TheaterMatters blog at BLAKE ZIDELL & ASSOCIATES (Press Representative) is a Brooklyn-based public relations firm representing

arts organizations and cultural institutions. Clients include St. Ann’s Warehouse, Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theatre, Soho Rep, National Sawdust, The Kitchen, Performance Space New York, PEN America, StoryCorps, Symphony Space, the Fisher Center at Bard, Peak Performances, Irish Arts Center, the Merce Cunningham Trust, the Onassis Foundation, Taylor Mac, Page 73, The Playwrights Realm, PlayCo and more.

THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE . Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, this is Theatre for a New Audience’s (TFANA) 43rd season. Through its productions of Shakespeare and other new plays, humanities initiatives and programs in NYC public schools, TFANA creates adventurous dialogues with diverse audiences. TFANA has produced 33 of Shakespeare’s 38 plays alongside an international mix of classical and contemporary drama; promotes ongoing artistic development through its Merle Debuskey Studio Fund; and in 2001, growing from a collaboration with Cicely Berry, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s director of voice, TFANA became the first American theatre company invited to bring a production of Shakespeare to the RSC. ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION (“Equity”), founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more

than 50,000 actors and stage managers. Equity seeks to foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of society and advances the careers of its members by negotiating wages and working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits including health and pension plans. Actors’ Equity is a member of the AFL-CIO and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions. #EquityWorks


Voiceprint.................... Okwui Okpokwasili, Livia Reiner 3D Artist................................................. Harry Kleeman Swing Light Board Operator....................... Paul Kennedy Production Electrician.............................. Michael Cahill Production Audio............................................. Ryan Hall Production Video.............................................. Ben Moll Electricians....................... Darcy Burke, Jeff D’Ambrosio, Rhylke Caputo, Lillian Hilmes, Akvinder Kaur, Ciara McAloon, Tony Mulanix, Melissa Ore, Sydnee Peterson, Natalie Shipley Head Carpenter................................................ Leon Axt 30

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Carpenters...................... Cory Asinofsky, Steven Cepeda, Mars Doutey, Helen Hylton, Tobias Segal Riggers.............................. Cory Asinofsky, Mars Doutey, Helen Hylton, Tobias Segal Drivers........................ Jeorge Condors, Shaheem Jackson CREDITS: Video equipment provided by 4Wall Entertainment. Additional lighting equipment provided by PRG and Barbizon Lighting Company. Additional labor provided by FiveOHM Productions.

THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE LEADERSHIP JEFFREY HOROWITZ (Founding Artistic Director) began his career in theatre as an actor and appeared

on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theatre. In 1979, he founded Theatre for a New Audience. Horowitz has served on the panel of the New York State Council on the Arts, on the board of directors of Theatre Communications Group, the advisory board of the Shakespeare Society and the artistic directorate of London’s Globe Theatre. Awards: 2003 John Houseman Award from The Acting Company, 2004 Gaudium Award from Breukelein Institute, 2019 Obie Lifetime Achievement and TFANA’s 2020 Samuel H. Scripps.

DOROTHY RYAN (Managing Director) joined Theatre for a New Audience in 2003 after a ten-year

fundraising career with the 92nd Street Y and Brooklyn Museum. Ryan began her career in classical music artist management and also served as company manager and managing leader for several regional opera companies. She is a Brooklyn Women of Distinction honoree and serves as treasurer of the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance.

JEREMY BLUNT (General Manager). Prior to joining TFANA in 2023, Jeremy was the managing director of

the Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora, California. Before that, he was on the general management team at Broadway Asia where he worked on DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda Spectacular Live and served as the contract affairs coordinator at the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. MFA: performing arts management, Brooklyn College. MBA, bachelor of science in business administration, California Baptist University. He proudly served in the U.S. Army and Air National Guard, retiring in 2021 after holding multiple leadership positions.

Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo © David Sundberg/Esto.

Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage. Photo by Francis Dzikowski/OTTO.



ABOUT THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE About Theatre for a New Audience Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, the mission of Theatre for a New Audience is to be home for Shakespeare and other contemporary authors. The Theatre is dedicated to the ongoing search for a living, human theatre and forging an immediate exchange with an audience that is always new and different from the last one. With Shakespeare as its guide, the Theatre builds a dialogue that spans centuries between the language and ideas of Shakespeare and diverse authors, past and present. An internationally respected producer, the Theatre develops and mounts productions that examine and illuminate the contemporary significance of classic plays and modern dramatic masterworks. In addition to its world-class productions, the Theatre engages its community through free Humanities programs for general audiences, extensive creative development opportunities for artists, and the largest indepth arts in education programs to introduce Shakespeare and classic drama to New York City Public School students.


Board Chair Robert E. Buckholz Vice Chair Kathleen C. Walsh President Jeffrey Horowitz Founding Artistic Director Vice President and Secretary Dorothy Ryan Managing Director

Executive Committee Alan Beller Robert E. Buckholz Jeffrey Horowitz Managing Director Dorothy Ryan Constance Christensen General Manager Jeremy Blunt Jeffrey Horowitz Director of Institutional Advancement Seymour H. Lesser James J. Lynes Larry M. Loeb, Esq. Theatre for a New Audience Education Programs Finance Director Mary Sormeley Philip R. Rotner Education Director Lindsay Tanner Theatre for a New Audience is an award-winning company recognized Capital Campaign Director Kathleen C. Walsh for artistic excellence. Our education programs introduce students to Josh Weisberg George Brennan Director of Marketing & Communications Shakespeare and other classics with the same artistic integrity that we Eddie Carlson apply to our productions. Through our unique and exciting methodology, Members Facilities Director Rashawn Caldwell students engage in hands-on learning that involves all aspects of literacy F. Murray Abraham* Technical Director Joe Galan set in the context of theatre education. Our residencies are structured Arin Arbus* Production Manager Brett Anders Company Manager Molly Burdick to address City and State Learning Standards both in English Language John Berendt* Theatre Manager Lawrence Dial Arts and the Arts, the New York City DOE’s Curriculum Blueprint for Bianca Vivion Brooks* Box Office Manager Allison Byrum Teaching and Learning in Theater, and the New York State Common Ben Campbell Marketing Manager Angela Renzi Robert Caro* Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts. Begun in 1984, Associate Director of Development Sharon Dunn* Sara Billeaux our programs have served more than 135,000 students, ages 9 through Matthew E. Fishbein Artistic Associate Peter J. Cook 18, in New York City Public Schools city-wide. Riccardo Hernandez* S TA F F Founding Artistic Director

Education Coordinator Emma Griffone Coordinator, Administration & Kathryn Hunter* Humanities|Studio Programming A Home in Brooklyn: Polonsky Shakespeare Center Dana Ivey* Nadiya Atkinson Theatre for a New Audience’s home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, is a Tom Kirdahy* Finance Associate Harmony Fiori Harry J. Lennix* Associate to the Founding Artistic Director centerpiece of the Brooklyn Cultural District. Catherine Maciariello* Allison Benko Designed by celebrated architect Hugh Hardy, Polonsky Shakespeare Audrey Heffernan Meyer* Grants Associate Emmy Ritchey Development Associate Olivia Laskin Center is the first theatre in New York designed and built expressly for Alan Polonsky Development Associate Gavin McKenzie classic drama since Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont in the 1960s. The Dorothy Ryan Facilities Associate Tim Tyson 27,500 square-foot facility is a unique performance space in New York. Joseph Samulski* Archivist Shannon Resser New Deal Program Coordinator Zhe Pan The 299-seat Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage, inspired by the Cottesloe at Doug Steiner TFANA Teaching Artists London’s National Theatre, combines an Elizabethan courtyard theatre Susan Stockel Albert Iturregui-Elias, Elizabeth with modern theatre technology that allows the stage and seating to be Michael Stranahan London, Erin McCready, Kea Trevett, arranged in seven configurations. The facility also includes the Theodore John Douglas Thompson* Matthew Dunivan House Managers C. Rogers Studio (a 50-seat rehearsal/performance studio), and theatrical John Turturro* Regina Pearsall, Adjani Reed, support spaces. The City of New York-developed Arts Plaza, designed by Frederick Wiseman* Nancy Gill Sanchez *Artistic Council landscape architect Ken Smith, creates a natural gathering place around Press Representative the building. In addition, Polonsky Shakespeare Center is also one of the Emeritus Blake Zidell & Associates Resident Director Arin Arbus few sustainable (green) theatre in the country, with LEED-NC Silver Francine Ballan Resident Casting Director Jack Doulin Sally Brody rating from the United States Green Building Council. Resident Dramaturg Jonathan Kalb William H. Burgess III Resident Distinguished Artist Now with a home of its own, Theatre for a New Audience is contributing Caroline Niemczyk John Douglas Thompson to the continued renaissance of Downtown Brooklyn. In addition to its Janet C. Olshansky Resident Voice and Text Director season of plays, the Theatre has expanded its Humanities offerings to Theodore C. Rogers Andrew Wade TFANA COUNCIL OF SCHOLARS Tanya Pollard, Chair Jonathan Kalb, Alisa Solomon, Ayanna Thompson


include lectures, seminars, workshops, and other activities for artists, scholars, and the general public. When not in use by the Theatre, its new facility is available for rental, bringing much needed affordable performing and rehearsal space to the community.

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Mark Rylance* Daryl D. Smith Monica G.S. Wambold Jane Wells



CONTRIBUTORS TO THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE’S ANNUAL FUND May 1, 2022 – August 16, 2023 Even with capacity audiences, ticket sales account for a small portion of our operating costs. Theatre for a New Audience wishes to thank the following donors for their generous support toward our Annual Campaign. For a list of donors $250 and above, go to PRINCIPAL BENEFACTORS

($100,000 and up) Bay and Paul Foundations Bloomberg Philanthropies City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs Constance Christensen Employee Retention Tax Credit Jerome L. Greene Foundation Fund in the New York Community Trust National Endowment for the Humanities The SHS Foundation The Shubert Foundation, Inc. The Thompson Family Foundation, Inc. U.S. Small Business Administration LEADING BENEFACTORS

($50,000 and up) Robert E. Buckholz and Lizanne Fontaine Deloitte & Touche LLP The Howard Gilman Foundation, Inc. New York State Council on the Arts The Stockel Family Foundation The Whiting Foundation MAJOR BENEFACTORS

($20,000 and up) The Arnow Family Fund The Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation Alan Beller Kathleen Walsh and Gene Bernstein Sally Brody Benton Campbell and Yiba Ng The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation Agnes Gund The Hearst Corporation The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP Latham & Watkins LLP Patricia McGuire Audrey Heffernan Meyer and Danny Meyer National Endowment for the Arts New York State Urban Development Corporation The Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Anne and William Tatlock

Kimbrough Towles and George Loening The White Cedar Fund SUSTAINING BENEFACTORS

($10,000 and up) Anonymous (2) Akin Peggy and Keith Anderson American Express Christine Armstrong and Benjamin Nickoll Ritu and Ajay Banga Dominique Bravo and Eric Sloan Debevoise & Plimpton LLP The Howard Bayne Fund Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis Jill and Jay Bernstein Elaine and Norman Brodsky Michele and Martin Cohen The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. The Ettinger Foundation The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Sidney E. Frank Foundation Ashley Garrett and Alan Jones Lauren Glant and Michael Gillespie Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Ingram, Yuzek, Gainen, Carroll, Bertolotti LLP The J.M. Kaplan Fund King & Spalding LLP Kirkland & Ellis Foundation Anna Kuzmik and George Sampas McDermott Will & Emery K. Ann McDonald M. Salome Galib and Duane McLaughlin Caroline Niemczyk Janet C. Olshansky Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP Ponce de Leon Foundation May and Samuel Rudin Foundation Inc. Cynthia V.A. and Robert T. Schaffner Kerri Scharlin and Peter Klosowicz Sarah I. Schieffelin Residuary Trust Susan Schultz and Thomas Faust Select Equity Group, Inc. Daryl and Joy Smith The Speyer Family Foundation The Starry Night Fund Michael Tuch Foundation, Inc. Fran and Barry Weissler

Sharon Dunn and Harvey Zirofsky Suzan and Fred Ehrman Judith and Alan Fishman ($5,000 and up) Heidi and Christopher Flagg Anonymous (1) Sheryl and Jeffrey Flug Axe-Houghton Foundation Foley Hoag LLP Sidley Austin LLP Lauren Glant and Michael Gillespie Natalie and Matthew Bernstein Linda Genereux and Timur Galen The Bulova Stetson Fund Roberta Garza Walter Cain and Paulo Ribeiro Aileen Dresner and Frank R. Drury Monica Gerard-Sharp Karoly and Henry Gutman Jennifer and Steven Eisenstadt Debra Fine and Martin I. Schneider Irving Harris Foundation Kirsten Feldman and Hugh Frater Thomas Healy and Fred P. Hochberg Sophia Hughes Jenny and Jeff Fleishhacker Flora and Christoph Kimmich Katherine Goldsmith Andrea Knutson Debra Goldsmith Robb Sandy and Eric Krasnoff Kathy and Steven Guttman Sonia and Arvind Krishna Judy and Douglas Hamilton Taryn and Mark Leavitt Jennifer and Matt Harris Justine and John Leguizamo Marta Heflin Foundation Patricia and Frank Lenti Kirsten and Peter Kern Diane and William F. Lloyd Sandy and Eric Krasnoff Lucille Lortel Foundation Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins Susan Martin and Alan Belzer Djena Lennix Nancy Meyer and Marc N. Weiss Seymour H. Lesser Alessandra and Alan Mnuchin Anna and Peter Levin Barbara Forster Moore and Litowitz Foundation, Inc. Richard Wraxall Moore Larry and Maria-Luisa Loeb Connie and Tom Newberry Ronay and Richard Menschel Catherine Nyarady and Gabriel Riopel New York City Council Annie Paulsen and Albert Garner Margaret Nuzum Ellen Petrino Estelle Parsons Proskauer Rose LLP Pamela Reiss Tracey and Robert Pruzan Richenthal Foundation Leslie and David Puth Philip and Janet Rotner Rajika and Anupam Puri Mark and Marie Schwartz Jane Hartley and Ralph Schlosstein Susan and Peter Restler Susan and William Rifkin Susan Stockel The Irwin S. Scherzer Foundation Theatre Development Fund Joseph Samulski The Venable Foundation Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles Margo and Anthony Viscusi Robert and Anna Marie Shapiro Josh and Jackie Weisberg Jeremy T. Smith Renee Zarin Ellen Sontag-Miller and William C. Miller PRODUCERS CIRCLE—EXECUTIVE Douglas C. Steiner ($2,500 and up) Gail Stone and Matthew Fishbein Anonymous (5) Diana and P. Roy Vagelos Romy Cohen Gayle and Jay Waxenberg Jane Cooney Joanne Witty and Eugene Keilin Dennis M. Corrado Christine Cumming Consulate General of Spain in PRODUCERS CIRCLE—ASSOCIATE New York ($1,000 and up) Katharine and Peter Darrow Anonymous (3) Myrna and Paul Davis Elizabeth and Russell Abbott Nancy Blachman and Actors’ Equity Association David desJardins Ann Ash Laura and James Duncan Jackie and Jacob Baskin PRODUCERS CIRCLE— ARTISTIC DIRECTOR’S SOCIETY



THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE John Berendt Deborah Berke and Peter D. McCann M.J. and James Berrien Cece and Lee Black Mary Bockelmann Norris and Floyd Norris Lani and Dave Bonifacic Penny Brandt Jackson and Thomas Campbell Jackson Christina and John Bransfield Hilary Brown and Charles Read Pamela Brier and Peter Aschkenasy Deborah Buell and Charles Henry Janel Callon Joan and Robert Catell Ron Chernow Joel Conarroe Larry Condon Sara Debolt Ian Dickson and Reg Holloway Jodie and Jonathan Donnellan Frederick Eberstadt◊ Mary Edlow and Ken Edlow Ev and Lee Ellen Foote and Steve Hindy Debra Kaye and Steven Horowitz Roxanne Frank Pamela Givner Virginia Gliedman Anne and Paul Grand Alba Greco-Garcia and Roger Garcia Kathleen and Harvey Guion Grace Harvey Vicki and Ronald Hauben Caren and Peter Herzberg Laura and Robert Hoguet Maxine Isaacs John Koerber Kate Karet and Jeff Levick Miriam Katowitz and Arthur Radin Helen Kauder and Barry Nalebuff Jessie Kelly

Nora Wren Kerr and John J. Kerr Susan Kurz Snyder Julius Leiman-Carbia Monica Loseman Dedee and Steve Lovell Tina and Terry Lundgren Margaret Lundin Rebecca and Stephen Madsen The Grace R. and Alan D. Marcus Foundation Marie Nugent-Head and James Marlas Wendy and Jeffrey Maurer Sophie and Malcolm McConnell Diane and Bruce Meltzer Mimi Oka and Jun Makihara Chandru Murthi Stephanie and Robert Olmsted Annie Parisse and Paul Sparks Lori and Lee Parks Doris and Martin Payson Barbara and Louis Perlmutter Margaret and Carl Pfeiffer Susie Polsky Dale Ponikvar Heather Randall Anne Prost and Olivier Robert Carol and Michael Reimers David A.J. Richards Avi Sharon and Megan Hertzig Sharon Nancy Rosenberg and David Sternlieb Enid and Paul I. Rosenberg Daryl and Steven Roth Deborah Scharf and A. Ross Hill Stacy Schiff and Marc de la Bruyere Sandra and Steven Schoenbart Susan Sommer and Stephen A. Warnke The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust Lauren and Jay Springer


Wendy and Tom Stephenson Barbara Stimmel Julie Taymor Roger Tilles Donna Zaccaro Ullman and Paul A. Ullman Cynthia King Vance and Lee Vance Elena and Louis Werner Abby Westlake Debra Winger Devera and Michael Witkin Evan D. Yionoulis and Donald Holder Nancy Young and Paul Ford Audrey Zucker

In honor of Audrey Heffernan Meyer Ritu and Ajay Banga Sheryl and Jeff Flug Thomas Healy and Fred P. Hochberg Cynthia King Vance Agnes Gund


In memory of Steven Jackson Popkin Susan Kurz Snyder

In honor of Georgette Bennett & Leonard Polonsky and Liz & Joshua Tanenbaum Marion and Daniel Goldberg In honor of Leonard Polonsky birthday Robert Lewis In honor of Sally Brody Ann Ash Sophie McConnell Nancy B. Pearsall In honor of Robert E. Buckholz Martha and Stephen Dietz Jennifer and Steven Eisenstadt In honor of Connie Christensen Nancy Rosenberg and David Sternlieb

In honor of Susan Martin and Alan Belzer Dale L. Ponikvar In honor of Caroline Niemczyk Silda Spitzer and Erik Stangvik

In honor of Ted Rogers Janet Olshansky In honor of Kathy Walsh Natalie and Matthew Bernstein Dave and Lani Bonifacic Wendy and Jeff Maurer Bruce Meltzer In honor of Kathy Walsh and Gene Bernstein Christina and Jack Bransfield Michele and Martin Cohen Christine and Alan Vickery Jennifer and James Wilent In memory of Michael Zarin Renee Zarin

In honor of Fred Eberstadt Linell Smith and Dr. Tom Hall In honor of Ned Eisenberg Anonymous

MATCHING GIFTS The following companies have contributed through their Matching Gift Programs: If your employer has a matching gift program, please consider making a contribution to Theatre for a New Audience and making your gift go further by participating in your employer’s matching gift program. BlackRock, Inc. Goldman Sachs & Co. Matching Gift Foundation

Google International Business Machines JPMorgan Chase Foundation

Omidyar Group Related Companies TIFF Advisory Services

PUBLIC FUNDS Theatre for a New Audience’s productions and education programs are made possible, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts; Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


T H E AT R E F O R A N E W A U D I E N C E 360° S E R I E S



SHAKESPEARE WORKS IN BROOKLYN: CULTURE, COMMUNITY, CAPITAL Theatre for a New Audience recognizes with gratitude the following donors to Theatre for a New Audience’s Capital Campaign to support ambitious programming, access to affordable tickets and financial resiliency. Named funds within the Capital Campaign include the Henry Christensen III Artistic Opportunity Fund, the Audrey H. Meyer New Deal Fund and the Merle Debuskey Studio Fund. Other opportunities include the Completing Shakespeare’s Canon Fund, Capital Reserves funds and support for the design and construction of New Office and Studio Spaces. To learn more, or to make a gift to the Capital Campaign, please contact George Brennan at or by calling 646-553-3893. $1,000,000 AND ABOVE

Mr.◊ and Mrs. Henry Christensen III Ford Foundation The Howard Gilman Foundation New York City Department of Cultural Affairs The Thompson Family Foundation $250,000-$999,999 Booth Ferris Foundation Robert E. Buckholz and Lizanne Fonatine Merle Debuskey◊ Irving Harris Foundation The Stairway Fund, Audrey Heffernan Meyer and Danny Meyer The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Kathleen Walsh and Gene Bernstein $100,000–$249,999 Alan Jones and Ashley Garrett Carol Sutton Lewis and William M. Lewis, Jr. Seymour H. Lesser The Polonsky Foundation $50,000–$99,999 Miriam Katowitz and Arthur Radin Bloomberg Philanthropies May and Howard Kelberg Aileen and Frank Drury Kirsten and Peter Kern Agnes Gund Susan Litowitz The Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund Ronay and Richard Menschel

New York State Council on the Arts Ann and Conrad Plimpton Abby Pogrebin and David Shapiro Priham Trust/The Green Family John and Regina Scully Foundation Alejandro Santo Domingo Marie and Mark Schwartz $20,000–$49,999 Diana Bergquist Sally R. Brody New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Linda and Jay Lapin Janet Wallach and Robert Menschel◊ Alessandra and Alan Mnuchin Anne Prost and Robert Olivier Allison and Neil Rubler Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Jackie and Josh Weisberg Cynthia and Thomas Sculco Peggy and Keith Anderson Elaine and Norman Brodsky Kathy and Steve Guttman Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation Cynthia and Robert Schaffner Kerri Scharlin and Peter Klosowicz Daryl and Joy Smith Susan Stockel Anne and William Tatlock Marcia T. Thompson◊ Earl D. Weiner

$5,000–$9,999 Alan Beller Katharine and Peter Darrow Bipin and Linda Doshi Marcus Doshi Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Susan Schultz and Thomas Faust Barbara G. Fleischman Jane Garnett and David Booth Charlene Magen Weinstein Penny Brandt Jackson and Thomas Jackson ◊deceased

HUMANITIES, EDUCATION, AND OUTREACH SUPPORT Even with capacity audiences, ticket sales account for a small portion of our operating costs. The Theatre expresses its deepest thanks to the following Foundations, Corporations, Government Agencies and Individuals for their generous support of the Theatre’s Humanities, Education, and Outreach programs. The 360° Series: Viewfinders has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Viewfinder, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A Challenge Grant from the NEH established a Humanities endowment fund at Theatre for a New Audience to support these programs in perpetuity. Leading matching gifts to the NEH grant were provided by Joan and Robert Arnow, Norman and Elaine Brodsky, The Durst Organization, Perry and Marty Granoff, Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, John J. Kerr & Nora Wren Kerr, Litowitz Foundation, Inc., Robert and Wendy MacDonald, Sandy and Stephen Perlbinder, The Prospect Hill Foundation, Inc., Theodore C. Rogers, and from purchasers in the Theatre’s Seat for Shakespeare Campaign, 2013 – 2015. Theatre for a New Audience’s Humanities, Education, and Outreach programs are supported, in part, by The Elayne P. Bernstein Education Fund. For more information on naming a seat or making a gift to the Humanities endowment, please contact James Lynes, Director of Institutional Advancement, at 212-229-2819 x29, or by email at



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