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About the Show

Spokaoke invites the audience to perform speeches as they would ordinarily perform songs in a karaoke bar. Created by writer and director Annie Dorsen (2019 MacArthur Fellow, 2018 Guggenheim Fellow, Infinite Sun, The Great Outdoors, Yesterday Tomorrow), this participatory event plays with the legacy of spoken artifacts, treating snippets and snatches of public address like a Top 40 radio of collective discourse.

Over a hundred texts are available on the karaoke system and arranged in a catalog that audience members can peruse. Some texts are familiar to the point of iconic status (“I have a dream,” “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”), while others are lesser-known. Texts come from a wide variety of sources and eras — Socrates’ trial speech, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman,” Colonel Qaddafi at the United Nations. All texts are in English. Hearing the speeches in relation to each other reveals new connections between them, as distinct moments of socio-historical urgency collide in unpredictable and unexpected ways.

Spokaoke is co-presented with Bryn Mawr College’s Performing Arts Series as part of the Algorithmic Theater Retrospective.


Creation: Annie Dorsen
Sound Design: Vladimir Kudryatsev/Uli Ertl
Assistance: Lola Harney
Management/Production: Natasha Katerinopoulos
Technical Supervision: Ryan Holspopple
Host: Patty Jackson

Co-produced by steirischer herbst (Graz, AT) and Black Box Teater (Oslo, NO)

Support for Algorithmic Theater has been provided to Bryn Mawr College’s Performing Arts Series by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


About the Artists

Annie Dorsen is a theater director working at the intersection of algorithmic art and live performance. Her most recent project, Infinite Sun, is an algorithmic sound installation commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019). Previous performance projects include The Great Outdoors (2017), Yesterday Tomorrow (2015), A Piece of Work (2013), Spokaoke (2012), and Hello Hi There (2010). These pieces have been presented at numerous theatres and festivals world-wide, including at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York), Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), the steirischer herbst festival (Graz), the Holland Festival (Amsterdam), and the Festival d’Automne (Paris).

In 2010, she collaborated with choreographer Anne Juren on Magical, presented at ImPulsTanz Festival Vienna, Lyon Biennale de la Danse, Théâtre de la Cité International Paris, Kampnagel Hamburg, and many others.

In 2009 she created two music-theatre pieces, Ask Your Mama, a setting of Langston Hughes’ 1962 poem, composed by Laura Karpman and sung by Jessye Norman and The Roots (Carnegie Hall) and ETHEL’s Truckstop, seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. She is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. Spike Lee made a film of her production of the piece, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, and was released theatrically by IFC in 2010.

Her pop-political performance project Democracy in America was presented at PS122 in spring 2008. The short film, I Miss, originally the centerpiece of Democracy in America, screened at American Film Institute Festival (AFI Fest), SXSW Film Festival, The New York Film Festival’s “Views From the Avant-Garde” and the Nantucket Film Festival.

She has taught at University of Chicago and Bard College, and been a frequent guest lecturer at numerous universities and art schools in the US and abroad.

Dorsen is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Spalding Gray Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant to Artists Award, and the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts.


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