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Mata Hari: Sketch of a Courtesan

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Baross, Jan (American playwright, video writer/producer, 1943- ), "Mata Hari: Sketch of a Courtesan,"

a bare-stage drama in English, set before a firing squad (the audience), Vincennes, near Paris, France, October 15, 1917,

1m1f (+ offstage voice);

    © 1990 by Jan Baross, script/rights available available through BMI@teleport.com. Cited by Toni Rakestraw, Grimpenmire Press, to present author via e-mail Dabblmom@aol.com, January 16, 1996; Rakestraw says,

  §  Dramatis Persona Mata Hari (f), courtesan.

  §  Synopsis "Mata Hari is standing before the firing squad on the day of her execution in 1917. The lights go out as the Sergeant's voice gives the command to fire. The lights come back up, and Mata Hari begins her story. She married a man through an advertisement in the local paper. Together, they traveled to the Dutch East Indies. Still, she was not happy. She longed to escape. She met the woman who was to change her life. Leita was a Sacred Goddess to her people. She taught Mata Hari her dance and gave her the name that has gone down in history. Her story continues as she becomes the dancer who introduced the striptease to Europe. Her first major conquest was Baron Francois de Breton, who helped her make her name in Paris society. Together, they invented the legend of Mata Hari. Eventually, the Germans tried to get her to spy on the French. She said yes, though she had no intention of doing so. In order to remove suspicion from herself, she offered to spy for the French. The Germans fooled them, however, and Mata Hari was arrested."

  §  Comment "The daughter of a prosperous hatter, she attended a teachers' college in Leiden. In 1895 she married an officer of Scottish origin, Captain Campbell MacLeod, in the Dutch colonial army, and from 1897 to 1902 they lived in Java and Sumatra. The couple returned to Europe but later separated, and she began to dance professionally in Paris in 1905 under the name of Lady
 MacLeod. She soon called herself Mata Hari, said to be a Malay expression for the sun (literally, 'eye of the day'). Tall, extremely attractive, superficially acquainted with East Indian dances, and willing to appear virtually nude in public, she was an instant success in Paris and other large cities. Throughout her life she had numerous lovers, many of them military officers.  The facts regarding her espionage activities remain obscure. According to one account, in the spring of 1916, while she was living in The Hague, a German consul is said to have offered to pay her for whatever information she could obtain on her next trip to France. After her arrest by the French, she acknowledged only that she had given some outdated information to a German intelligence officer. According to Mata Hari's story, she had agreed to act as a French spy in German-occupied Belgium. She did not bother to tell French intelligence of her prior arrangement with the Germans. She later said that she had intended to secure for the Allies the assistance of Ernest  Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Germany and heir to the dukedom of Cumberland in the British peerage. Apparently, British sources informed French intelligence of Mata Hari's negotiations with the German official in The Hague. French suspicion of her duplicity increased, and on Feb. 13, 1917, she was arrested in Paris. She was imprisoned, tried by a military court on July 24-25, 1917, sentenced to death, and shot by a firing squad."Britannica.com, http://www.britannica.com/seo/m/mata-hari/, accessed February 15, 2001.    There is also a full two-act play called
The Last Seuction of Mata Hari and a screenplay by the same name available at BMI@teleport.com.

  §  Themes bare stage, espionage, firing squad, Mata Hari (born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, Dutch dancer in France, executed by French as a spy, 1876-1917).

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Page updated April 3, 1996, February 15, 2001, by the site Webmaster.

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