the napoleon play, so what exactly is it about?
the benevolent dictator speaks:
it is a commonly held belief that history repeats itself throughout the passage of time. enmities recur. natural disasters recur. empires rise and fall across the globe. progress is made and lost. darkness comes to be replaced by light only to be veiled by darkness again - night into day into night. and through these cycles people forget the details - the history. so historians must retell the lost tales. and sometimes we learn and move forward from ignorance into enlightenment and suffering lessens. but sometimes we do not learn and tyrants are born and allowed to assume power positions of leadership and control. when this happens, hatred ignites, violence spikes, and the people fall into despair and desolation.
many people know the name napoleon bonaparte. some do not. some fear the name as a connotation of dictatorship, war and death, oppression, and tyranny. some rejoice the name as it denotes renewal, freedom, progress, law and order, and the end of feudalism and the beginning of democracy. as with most history, the history of napoleon is fraught with two-sided tales, tales of victory and defeat, love and betrayal, benevolence and malevolence, freedom and oppression, wealth and poverty, friendship and isolation, empire and exile. the history of napoleon varies depending on who is doing the telling. even after his defeat at the hands of the duke of wellington at waterloo and his exile to the island of saint helena in the southern atlantic ocean, napoleon was both conqueror and conquered, emperor and abdicator, revolutionary and traitor, and even within the halls of power in england, his sworn enemy, he had supporters.
how is it that history and storytelling for that matter can have such a variety of tellings. how can the japanese of world war ii be both members of the axis of evil and victims of nuclear atrocity? how could hitler love his wife and reich and hate his jewish countryman? where does this duality come from: good versus evil, and why does it rule our past and present and potentially our future? why do we continue to have war, racism, poverty, famine, ignorance, and disease in a world that purports a desire for peace, equality, education, health and well being for all? how do we allow ourselves to be told stories that aren't true?
people have tried to answer these questions throughout the ages of humanity. some of them did answer these questions. but we either forgot their answers or ignored them. and now, once again, we have the opportunity to answer them. we have the chance to listen to the tales and decipher the truth from the fiction and learn again the lessons that have been lost. but this time it will be different.
no dry lectures about war, democracy, rome, babylon, the pharoahs of egypt, the lost empire of the incas, the slavery days of africa, the colonialism of western europe, the rise of the soviet socialist republics, the invasions of the huns. nope, none of this "in 1492 columbus sailed the ocean blue" history either. through the power of storytelling thousands of years old, through the use of modern communications technology, and through the artistic dedication and collaboration of thespians from across the globe a new story of history will be revealed and new questions asked. questions about our humanity, our morality, our cultural values and norms, and about who we truly are as individuals will be asked and pondered as you watch, possibly participate, and hopefully, if all goes according to plan, as you learn the truth for yourselves and as we learn it for ourselves.
theatre is a powerful mechanism for change, and it is also a tool of many uses: education, inspiration, activation. but it is also a tool for observation, experimentation, and analysis. it can be simple, spectacular, historical, and abstract. it can be presentational or representational or utterly absurb. it can be funny, tragic, endearing, provocative, and embarrassing if poorly executed. theatre like all art can be an imitation of life or for some, life itself.
this piece about the life and times of napoleon bonaparte isn't really about him and his experiences. it's all about us. seven billion sovereign individuals. living and learning and working collaboratively to meet the needs of all. the needs of all before the wants of any.
i am napoleon bonaparte: benevolent dictator. i am born to rule the world. to evolve it through revolution. i will create a sustainable and profitable empire for all. yet i will dominate through love. you will be given the gift of my omniscience for the betterment of humanity. i will gift you joy, harmony, equality, freedom, justice, and peace.
the current feudal system we live under, of a few with the most and the many with the least, is outdated. our legal system is overly complex in approach and unsuitable to meet the needs of the sovereign individual in implementation.
we will wash it away through glorious revolution. out with the old in with the new.
a few rash vagrants have offered to share my glorious imperial tale and i have decreed them the freedom to do so, as long as they cast me in the most suitable light for one ordained and destined to be ruler on high.
they have promised to capture my divine spirit and mold it into entertainment for the peasantry, which i deem worthy for my subjects' amusement.
for the duration of this endeavor you shall have the opportunity to see my glory cast in brilliance by those i have chosen to erect my legacy anew.
you shall learn of my time from my birth through my rise to power to my release from grace so my progeny can follow in my beaming footsteps after my sainthoodly death. everything you see and hear will be as i have commanded it. your failure to attend will lead to sure excommunication from the empire, loss of my faith in you, and life lived alone in the solitude of your treacherous denial of my imperial splendor, cast out from the garden of my delight, forgotten by me, denied by my empire, and lost to the annals of the mundane.
thus sayeth me, napoleon bonaparte, emperor of the world