The "death of character" and the dissolution of dramatic worlds in the postmodern theatre was coeval with the emergence of role-playing-based "idiocultures," which allow participants to create and enact characters within a "game-world." This essay argues that the modes of character production and world formation that developed in these idiocultures are playing an important role in the twenty-first-century "comeback of character." It examines a trio of widely produced American plays that look for character in the game-worlds that have given it refuge: Qui Nguyen's She Kills Monsters, Kristoffer Diaz's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, and Jennifer Haley's Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom. Moving in and out of the game-worlds of D&D, pro wrestling, and a Second Life–style MMORPG, the stage figures coalesce as knowable entities with consistent qualities and behaviors within the game-worlds, while remaining opaque and amorphous in their everyday lives, unable to clearly articulate and recognize themselves. Their "character" is generated dialectically between a recognizable form within a bounded, organized, and intelligible world and an inscrutable ethical presence beyond it. The essay argues that these plays magnify and dramatize the dialectical process through which dramatic worlds and characters have always been produced, which has been obscured by a tradition of character criticism bifurcated into formalist and ethical modes. As twenty-first-century habits of world-building, influenced by "filter bubbles," increasingly block out alternate worlds to produce hermetically sealed idiocultures, Nguyen, Diaz, and Haley show how theatre can attune us to a mode of perception, in which character is not a principle of containment, but of border-crossing.


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pp. 209-227
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