Czechs have animated the inanimate onstage through puppets, objects, and robots (R.U.R.) for centuries. More recently, a generation of theatre-makers has reversed that traditional imaginary, exploring possibilities within human-becoming-object that engage Peter Schumann’s assertion that “[o]bject exists only because we are deceived into being subject.” Through digital and material means, Czech “New Theatre” productions reconceive dormant Czech theatrical traditions to open space between subject and object that explores possibilities of being human beyond the boundaries that humanism’s binary definitions allow. Such rethinking has become urgent in an age when AI, technologically enhanced bodies, corporations recognized as “persons,” and anthropogenic global warming challenge previous understandings of human agency and composition. Drawing on puppetry studies and posthumanist theory, this essay analyzes the means used by three productions of Czech New Theatre to expose and yet imagine beyond the omissions, assumptions, and inequities within commonly accepted figurations of the human. Through digital puppets, physical composite characters, and transformations into objects, these productions question the composition of bodies and selves, seduction of the object, function of agency, and creation of character. They challenge us to consider how the exceptionalism, autonomy, and agency that humanism asserts for human subjects limits our ability to imagine being human otherwise. Illustrating how critical models of posthumanism can manifest onstage, the essay explores the process of human-becoming-object as one in which, contrary to humanist views, political and social agency can exist.


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pp. 61-81
Launched on MUSE
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