Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Highlight: A view from the past more relevant than ever

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Italian director Romeo Castellucci and Societas’ production of Democracy in America is at the National Taichung Theater for three performances, starting tonight.

Photo courtesy of Guido Mencari

In 1831, French aristocrat and historian Alexis de Tocqueville and nobleman Gustave de Beaumont traveled to the US, ostensibly on a mission for the French government to inspect prisons, returning home in February 1832.

While they published their prison report the following year, it is the essay that De Tocqueville published in 1835 — with the second volume appearing five years later — for which he is best remembered. That essay, Democracy in America, is even today still seen as a classic political science text.

De Tocqueville began by analyzing the impact of Puritan foundations on the young nation, and went on to examine civil society, representative democracy and the rise of the industrial sector. He noted the dangers posed by the tyranny of the majority and the clash between intellectual freedom and populist rhetoric.

While profoundly influential — and still relevant today — De Tocqueville’s text is not exactly a gripping tale that would make someone think, “Hey, let’s make this into a play.”

That is, unless you are Italian director and polymath Romeo Castellucci, who did exactly that with the experimental Italian theater group Societas. Castellucci has taken De Tocqueville’s writings as a loose inspiration to examine American political life, especially the religious influences upon it.

The storyline of Castellucci’s Democracy in America, which premiered as part of the Holland Festival on March 8 last year, revolves around a Puritan couple who want to help transform America into the new Promised Land, but find only hardship and ruin. The show also explores themes of language, intercultural relationships and the loss of innocence.

The multimedia production opens tonight for three performances at the Playhouse at the National Taichung Theater, which was one of the co-producers of the show.

Castellucci not only directed Democracy in America, but also designed the sets, costumes, lighting and choreography, using folk dances from six nations including England, Albania and Botswana as inspiration.

The cast includes six actors from Societas and several dancers recruited locally in each country — for this run, from the dance department of the National Taiwan University of Sport.

The show runs 105 minutes without intermission and will be performed in Italian, with Chinese surtitles.

■ Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm at the National Taichung Theater (台中國家歌劇院) 101, Huilai Rd Sec 2, Taichung City (台中市惠來路二段101號)

■ Tickets are NT$600 to NT$1,800, available at the theater box office, online at www.artsticket.com and at convenience store ticket kiosks

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