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Artaud and His Double


This is a play about Antonin Artaud (1896 - 1948), the Greek-French actor, director, playwright, poet, set & costume designer, theorist and madman. It chronicles some of his major creative ideas and certain events of his life during the period from 1922-1937.

The cast of "Artaud And His Double", c.1994.

The first act concerns events in the twenties in Paris. Between the Dadaists and the Surrealists, it was an era of ferment, and Artaud was right in the middle of it. Influenced by Asian culture and, in fact, by many cultures outside of the European continent, he forms an uneasy alliance with Andre Breton (the leader of The Surrealist Movement) and becomes the head of The Bureau of Surrealist Research. After a brief intellectual flirtation, Artaud and Breton part company when Breton excommunicates Artaud from The Surrealist Movement and becomes a communist. The act ends with one of Artaud's forays into film (playing the monk to Falcon Etti's St. Joan in Carl Dreyer's famous film, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC), and with Artaud's controversial production of Strindberg's A DREAM PLAY which Breton attempts to break up until Artaud has him arrested.

Throughout the play, Artaud discusses his ideas and problems with The Double, and in Act II, they begin to quarrel as Artaud resents The Double's hold on his identity.

Act II takes place in the thirties and is darker. At the beginning, we hear Artaud's famous speech on The Theater And The Plague which he gave at The Sorbonne. In the middle of the speech, he begins to act out what it is like to have the plague, and his acting is so effective that most of the spectators leave. After this performance, he discusses his effect on people with Anais Nin, and we watch his infatuation with her begin. In Act II, the pressure on Artaud intensifies; his work is not understood, he has no money, and he begins to lose contact with reality. In Mexico, he has an authentic spiritual transformation at the hands of the Tarahumara Indians. But this simply becomes another experience that he cannot translate into European terms. He disgraces himself in Brussels, makes a wild trip to Ireland and is finally arrested and put on a boat to France where he begins hallucinating and is put into a straitjacket. The play ends with his denunciation of the society he has been born into and his question: "What is madness anyway?" A curtain burns in the darkness illuminating his final speech as it has burned at the beginning of the play as a cry to the audience to wake from its torpor.

Last updated November 26,2006