This week, justArts spoke with Dylan Anthony Hoffman ’18 who directed the performance of “hamletmachine.”

justArts: Why did you choose to direct “hamletmachine” for the Festival of the Arts?

Dylan Hoffman: “hamletmachine” is, in a certain sense, about the world after the destruction of World War II. The play is laced with distrust of revolutionary forces and extremist governments, and with the recent rise of far-right nativist populism (Brexit, Trump, Marine Le Pen), it seemed hyper-relevant in 2017.

JA: What was it like directing such a surrealist, almost nonlinear, play?

DH: Exciting and terrifying. I wanted a challenge, I thrive on challenge, and I have pushed myself as a director before. But never like this.

JA: What themes were you trying to convey?

DH: A lot. For one, I wanted people to draw connections between the geopolitical environment we find ourselves in now with the environment that directly preceded World War II. Additionally, I wanted this to be about our collective lack of action in the face of accelerating climate change and environmental destruction.

JA: What was the most difficult part of directing hamletmachine?

DH: Finding the door to the text. When directing, I usually find that the hardest part of working on a new work is the initial push, because once you have one idea or image things tend to grow naturally out of that.

JA: What was the most rewarding part of directing?

DH: It’s always exciting to see your vision realized on stage.

JA: As the original writing of “hamletmachine” is extremely dense, how did you interpret and organize the script into your vision?

DH: First was the intellectual reaction — I knew pretty early on I wanted to make this play about extremism and the environment. After that, it became a question of how do I represent these things metaphorically on stage. I started putting pieces together and, at a certain point, the piece had enough weight that it started to pull new ideas into its orbit without too much work from myself.

JA: How did this production of hamletmachine differ from other productions?

DH: Dramatically. For one thing, I added three or four movement sequences that weren’t scripted. We didn’t get to the actual play until 8 minutes into the production: the opening was a choreographed sequence – we see a coffin in the middle of the floor, Ophelia/Gertrude (played by the same actress) in mourning, a funeral procession. Horatio blinds himself. The coffin becomes a womb, which births the young Hamlet, he is swaddled in a blanket that doubles as his kingly mantel and delivered to his waiting lover/mother. All of this doesn’t exist in the text, so it set the tone for the production to be much different than other productions.

—Hannah Kressel