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BSC takes new look at revolutionary play

Posted on 3/25/2014

Revolution taken from historic fact and thrust forward into today's world forms the setting for Bismarck State College Theatre's spring musical April 2-6.

"The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" (Marat/Sade) is a depiction of class struggle and human suffering that asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself.

Written by Peter Weiss in 1963, this play with music depicts actual events at the asylum in France, whose internees include French Revolution radicals, deviant or politically stained aristocrats, social miscreants, and the insane. One of the most famous plays of the 20th century, Marat/Sade ushered in a new form of theater described as "total theatre" because staging broke all rules of traditional realistic theatre and employed many theatrical devices to engage and excite the audience.

The main story takes place on July 13, 1808, when the inmates perform a play written by the incarcerated Marquis de Sade. The de Sade play is set during the French Revolution in 1793 and culminates in the Reign of Terror murder of Jean-Paul Marat, a French physician, journalist and revolutionary leader, by Charlotte Corday.

BSC Theatre director Dan Rogers and choreographer Jesse Lagos developed the production on three levels. Each actor plays himself (2014), an inmate of the asylum (1808), and a character in de Sade's play about the revolution (1793).

"We will attempt to maintain all three levels through the production," Rogers said. "We are giving it a new edginess by combining punk and other elements to make the French Revolution totally relevant to today's world and our students."

Marat/Sade contains extreme contrasts, allowing student actors to stretch, Rogers said. These contrasts contain some challenging ideas. Parental guidance is advised.

While revolution is a messy business, the play is about transformation as key characters debate the reasons behind dissent. Rogers sees Marat/Sade as commentary on contemporary global protest and conflict.

"Revolution is everywhere - the have-nots attempting to take down the haves to better their lives," Rogers said. "The U.S. is watching and trying to decide whether to get involved. What is our moral obligation? Do we step into their conflict at the risk of bringing chaos and violent conflict into our own lives? That is why I am doing this play."

Fourteen BSC students are in the 27-member cast that also includes BSC graduates, local community actors and a University of Mary student. Dean Bellin, assistant professor of theatre, handles lighting and scene design plus technical direction and design. Sarah Whitebull serves as student assistant director.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Sidney J. Lee Auditorium. Tickets are $10. For reserved seat tickets, call the box office at 224-5511.

Marat/Sade played in England after its premiere in Berlin, Germany. The U.S. production opened Dec. 27, 1965, on Broadway, where it earned Tony Awards for best play, director, costume design, and best performance by a featured actor in a play. The New York Drama Critics'' Circle Award named it best play. The 1967 film version featured many of the original actors.

About Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College, an innovative community college in Bismarck, N.D., offers high quality education, workforce training, and enrichment programs reaching local and global communities. For more information, visit

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