Collabowrighting the Hyper(play)text: A Postdramatic Digital Poetics

  • Johnmichael Rossi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this research is to exhibit how literary playtexts can evoke
multisensory trends prevalent in 21st century theatre. In order to do so, it
explores a range of practical forms and theoretical contexts for creating
participatory, site-specific and immersive theatre. With reference to literary
theory, specifically to semiotics, reader-response theory, postmodernism and
deconstruction, it attempts to revise dramatic theory established by Aristotle’s
Poetics. Considering Gertrude Stein’s essay, Plays (1935), and relevant trends
in theatre and performance, shaped by space, technology and the everchanging role of the audience member, a postdramatic poetics emerges from
which to analyze the plays of Mac Wellman and Suzan-Lori Parks.
Distinguishing the two textual lives of a play as the performance playtext and
the literary playtext, it examines the conventions of the printed literary playtext,
with reference to models of practice that radicalize the play form, including
works by Mabou Mines, The Living Theatre and Fiona Templeton. The
arguments of this practice-led Ph.D. developed out of direct engagement with
the practice project, which explores the multisensory potential of written
language when combined with hypermedia. The written thesis traces the
development process of a new play, Rumi High, which is presented digitally as
a ‘hyper(play)text,’ accessible through the Internet at Here,
‘playwrighting’ practice is expanded spatially, collaboratively and textually.
Plays are built, designed and crafted with many layers of meaning that explore
both linguistic and graphic modes of poetic expression. The hyper(play)text of
Rumi High establishes playwrighting practice as curatorial, where performance
and literary playtexts are in a reciprocal relationship. This thesis argues that
digital writing and reading spaces enable new approaches to expressing the
many languages of performance, while expanding the collaborative network
that produces the work. It questions how participatory forms of immersive and
site-specific theatre can be presented as interactive literary playtexts, which
enable the reader to have a multisensory experience. Through a reflection on
process and an evaluation of the practice project, this thesis problematizes
notions of authorship and text.
Date of AwardJul 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Reading
SupervisorLib Taylor (Supervisor) & Teresa Murjas (Supervisor)

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