Welcome to the new Age of Revolution: No, it isn’t over yet, and we have no idea where it’s going
Saturday, Apr 29, 2017 03:00 PM CDT
Many years ago when I was in college, I played the role of Coulmier in a production of Peter Weiss’ ground-breaking play “Marat/Sade.” It was the apex of my brief acting career, during which I always wanted to play the romantic lead and invariably wound up cast as a pompous authority figure: Egeus, Hermia’s windbag father, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; a high school principal in a 1950s farce called “Our Miss Brooks.”
Coulmier is the director of the asylum at Charenton, where the inmates — under the direction of the Marquis de Sade — are performing a play about the French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat, who was murdered in his bath by a woman named Charlotte Corday. (Yes, it’s a play within a play: Avant-garde theater!) One of the play’s conceits is that Coulmier sits in the audience, which supposedly consists of Parisian aristocrats visiting for the day to witness the freak show. Occasionally he interrupts the action, seeking to exercise his authority or apologizing for the quality of the entertainment.
Essentially the character is an extended joke on the fragility and stupidity of power: Coulmier fails to grasp the meaning of either the play he’s in — in which the inmates are literally taking over the asylum — or the one he’s watching, which in its own distorted form captures the violent energy and intellectual ferment of the French Revolution. He believes he’s in control of the situation, and cannot see what the modern audience is meant to see, that his power is already gone and history has passed him by. . .
Read more at http://www.salon.com/2017/04/29/welcome-to-the-new-age-of-revolution-it-isnt-over-yet-and-we-have-no-idea-where-its-going/