Foucault Theater by Meg Austin Smith

Power and cell phones are everywhere. Turn them off before we all go mad.

Actually it’s probably too late. Or so one might figure at some point during the two-hour long world premier of Georgetown University’s Department of Performing Arts’ adaptation of Madness and Civilization. A creative young professor and an ensemble of undergraduates explored the archaeology of madness in the West through a pastiche of off-kilter characters and interpretations of how their re-kilterings might have gone in the Age of Reason. Lots of handcuffs and straightjackets interspersed with video footage of the present-day mentally ill—who, as it turns out, were not at all mad to be trotted out to dance on stage at the end of the show. (Mad, no. Shy, yes. Who could blame them?)

So with a sold-out house ready to go out into the world and produce a proliferation of discourses on the subject of staged dances with the mentally ill rather than Madness and Civilization itself, a good theory student would have to ask WWFD? What Would Foucault Do? I would have texted someone to ask (I heard you can reach George Ritzer 24-hours a day at 1-800-MCDONALDS), but as you’ll remember I had to turn off my phone. So I had to think, and I thought that perhaps Foucault himself would have been too tickled by the cute shirtless guy who spent most of the show tied to a chair to really care about much else. Not to mention that real live Italian who quoted Beppe Grillo more than mon cherie Michel. Yet somehow I doubt Foucault would have taken issue with the Grillo refrain.

So bottom line: what better way to discipline your students to really engage with that reading than to put them on stage in front of a paying audience? Thus I declare this my most favorite French post-structuralist, anti-humanist, anti-modernist dramatically interpreted philosophy performance ever. But don’t hold me to that. I’m waiting for Baudrillard on ice.

Meg Austin Smith is a first year PhD student.

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