Rhinoceros: A Play Reading

Calling all theater lovers!  The Robbins Library will be hosting a collaborative play reading of the play Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco on Tuesday February 21st at 6:30PM in the Robbins Library Community Room.

What this means is that you’ll be the actors!  (But only if you want to!  All are welcome to attend and watch the performance without actually reading a part.)  We’ll be assigning roles to those interested at the start of the program on a first come, first served basis.  If you are assigned a role, you will read that character’s part for the entire play.  (Like a table-read or read-through.)  We will read the entire play, as time allows, and no staging or props will be used.  No acting experience is required; just a willingness to read aloud!

About the play:
“The sublime is confused with the ridiculous in this savage commentary on the human condition, a staple of every theatre classroom and 20th century drama. A small town is besieged by one roaring citizen who becomes a rhinoceros and proceeds to trample on the social order. As more citizens are transformed into rhinoceroses, the trampling becomes overwhelming, and more and more citizens become rhinoceroses. One sane man, Berenger remains, unable to change his form and identity.”

The Guardian had a great article back in 2007 about the play & how it is still relevant in modern times.  The New York Times breaks down the plot really well in an article posted late last year.  (Just a heads up, the New York Times article does get a bit political towards the end.  If that’s not your cup of tea, you may want to avoid reading the whole thing.)

A more in depth breakdown from the New York Times article:
“Eugène Ionesco was French-Romanian. He wrote “Rhinoceros” in 1958 as a response to totalitarian movements in Europe, but he was influenced specifically by his experience of fascism in Romania in the 1930s. Ionesco wanted to know why so many people give in to these poisonous ideologies. How could so many get it so wrong? The play, an absurd farce, was one way he grappled with this problem.”

“It is a Sunday afternoon in a provincial town in France. Two men meet at a cafe. One of them, Berenger, is half-drunk. He is being berated by his companion, Jean. All of the sudden, they hear a great noise. When they and other townspeople crane their necks to figure out what’s going on, they see a large animal thundering down one of the streets, stamping and snorting all the way. A rhinoceros! Not long after, there’s another. They are startled. It’s outrageous. Something must be done. What they begin to do is argue heatedly about whether the second rhino was the first one going past a second time or a different one, and then about whether the rhinos are African or Asiatic.

Things become more disturbing in the next act… The rhino sightings continue to be the subject of pointless dispute. Then, one by one, various people in the town begin to turn into rhinos. Their skin hardens, bumps appear over their noses and grow into horns. Jean had been one of those scandalized by the first two rhino sightings, but he becomes a rhino, too. Midway through his metamorphosis, Berenger argues with him: “You must admit that we have a philosophy that animals don’t share, and an irreplaceable set of values, which it’s taken centuries of human civilization to build up.” Jean, well on his way to being a rhino, retorts, “When we’ve demolished all that, we’ll be better off!”

It is an epidemic of “rhinoceritis.” Almost everyone succumbs: those who admire the brute force of the rhinos, those who didn’t believe the sightings to begin with, those who initially found them alarming. One character, Dudard, declares, “If you’re going to criticize, it’s better to do so from the inside.” And so he willingly undergoes the metamorphosis, and there’s no way back for him. The final holdouts from this mass capitulation are Berenger and Daisy, his co-worker.

At the end of “Rhinoceros,” Daisy finds the call of the herd irresistible. Her skin goes green, she develops a horn, she’s gone. Berenger, imperfect, all alone, is racked by doubts. He is determined to keep his humanity, but looking in the mirror, he suddenly finds himself quite strange. He feels like a monster for being so out of step with the consensus. He is afraid of what this independence will cost him. But he keeps his resolve, and refuses to accept the horrible new normalcy. He’ll put up a fight, he says. “I’m not capitulating!””

We hope to see you there!

rhinoceros

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