1998 Gassner Award Winner, Second Prize

Rimbaud With Strings
by Dennis Porter

Rimbaud with Strings is an original dramatization of the life of the late 19th century, gun-toting, bicycle-riding, avant-garde French writer, Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), that speaks to the preoccupations of a late 20th century audience. Jarry is best-known in the English-speaking world as the author of the violent and grotesque farce, King Ubu (first produced in Paris in 1896) - a work that is often identified as a precursor of Dada and whose famous first word, "Shitr," is seen in retrospect as the opening shot in the battle for a new twentieth-century theater.

The chief interest and provocation of Rimbaud is that it turns the tables on Jarry by adopting the anti-naturalist theatrical aesthetic of his famous play in order to represent real episodes of his own life, from birth to death, in a highly schematic and comically condensed dramatic form. Overall, sections of exuberant comedy are made to alternate with occasional quieter and even poignant segments in the attempt to celebrate and understand the eccentricity, brilliance and iconoclastic energies of the man and the dramatic artist at the point of the emergence of the modern avant-garde. To give Rimbaud dramatic focus, the action concentrates in particular on the way in which Jarry came progressively to model his own behavior on that of Ubu, the ferocious puppet he had himself created.

The work aims, on the one hand, to be irreverent, verbally adroit, fast-paced, physical, and funny and, on the other, to speculate provocatively on the darker forces in Jarry's psyche and in belle époque French society that animated his life and work and precipitated his premature death-something that is most apparent in three grotesque soliloquies in the course of which the protagonist progressively destroys the portrait of him painted by his famous friend, the Douanier Rousseau.

Cast of five actors: three men and two women doubling in fourteen roles

For more information, contact Dennis Porter.