A Revolution Takes the Stage

Steven Dennis

The halls of the Washburn University Theatre department will soon resound with a chorus of revolution from their newest show, which has been in rehearsal since February: “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of Marquis de Sade,” written by Peter Weiss.

“It is kind of different from most other shows that I have seen; it is kind of a play within a play,” said Mack Grines, actor. “So, you have the asylum setting, and then within the asylum you have a little story about the revolution and almost martyrdom of Jean-paul Marat.”

The play follows the lives of the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton, with particular mention going to Marquis de Sade, as well as to the lives of those involved in Marat’s tale. This focus draws parallels between the two scenarios, as well as contrasts.

“And so, you have the inmates in the asylum being directed by an inmate, which is the Marquis de Sade, who wrote the play being put on for the benefit of … the nobility, or people that were of a higher class,” said Julie Noonan, professor of theatre and the play’s director.

According to Noonan, the patients stand at the heart of the show, allowing the story of Marat to flourish within them.

“We see a lot of the main characters, the Marquis de Sade and Jean-Paul Marat. They talk a lot, but what they talk about are ideas about revolution, and who ‘does’ revolution, and who might be affected by the revolution, which is the people,” said Noonan. “Here we have those people, some of the most helpless people… that are sort of going back and forth between these arguments and following, sometimes being endangered and sometimes being empowered.”

In addition to powerful writing and performance, “Marat/Sade” sports a chorus and a handful of live musicians to enhance the experience.

“It feels like underscoring,” said Noonan. “The music is really used to comment on the ideas and the action.”

“Marat/Sade” has showtimes at 7:30 p.m. April 13, 14, 20 and 21, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 22. General admission is ten dollars, but entry is free with a valid Washburn ID.

“It has been a fun show and we have put a lot of work into it. It is a fun time. If people want to see it, that would be pretty cool,” said Grines.

Afterward, the theatre department will be working on a musical known as “Title of Show” for their summer performance.