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The History Lesson”

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Barrett, Dean (American playwright, writer, 1942-____), “The History Lesson,”

a 25-minute theatre of the absurd in English, set on a stage, day or night, 1997,


© 1997 by Dean Barrett;  •  script/rights available from Dean Barrett, deanbarr@loxinfo.co.th or deanbarrett58@hotmail.com, telephone (home) 212 677-9547, (work) 212 677-9547, fax 212 677-9547.  •  Cited by Dean Barrett via ftp, August 30, 1997, and amended via e-mail February 1, 1998; Barrett says,

Dramatis Personae “Man of Fashion (m), 40; Man of Leisure (m), 40; Hobo/New Man of Leisure (m), 40.

Synopsis “The Man of Fashion is giving a speech to the audience about Ussher’s theories, which the Man of Leisure begins ridiculing. However, the Man of Leisure finds what he is looking for in the trash barrel. He keeps a gun for himself and hands the ‘script’ to the Man of Fashion. Eventually, when the Man of Fashion will not hand over the script, the Man of Leisure accuses him of trying to keep control and shoots him dead. When he begins reading the script, he is amazed to learn that the shooting itself was in the script yet the Man of Fashion continued (as we know we will die but continue life). Just after this epiphany, a third man appears and helps carry the body off stage. The Man of Leisure reappears as the Man of Fashion and begins talking to the audience until he is interrupted by the New Man of Leisure. The Man of Leisure kills and replaces the Man of Fashion and adapts his ideas as well. At the end, a hobo appears who is as the Man of Leisure used to be and who (it is suggested) will replace him in the same fashion.

Comment “‘The History Lesson’ is a theater of the absurd play about Archbishop James Ussher, the dean of Dublin College and an important 17th century theologian. Ussher believed the universe was created by God in 4004 B.C. and for a very long time everyone agreed—except experts were bitterly divided over whether it had been in the spring or in the fall. (No, I’m not making this up.) The play explores the cyclical nature of history and whether or not we have free will. An earlier, shorter version performed in 1995 by Love Creek Production in New York. Made it into Finals. Full version performed September-October, 1997) by Offstage Theater in Charlottesville, Virgina, U.S.A. Props include two caps and gowns, three garbage cans, a script and a revolver.”

See also Dean Barrett’s
  • Themes absurdity, cycles, determinism, fate, free will, history, nihilism.
  • About the Playwright

        Dean Barrett has had several plays read and staged by various groups including Pasadena Playhouse of California, Virginia's Offstage Theatre, Florida's Riverside Theatre, New York's Phoenix Ensemble, Vox Theater, Love Creek Productions, Fourplay Productions, PanAsia Repertory, and several colleges and universities.
        Dean has written the book and lyrics for a musical set in Hong Kong in 1857 entitled FRAGRANT HARBOUR (music -Ed Linderman). Presentations of the musical have been held at BMI, York Theater, Directors Company and Penn State University. The musical was selected to be staged on 42nd Street under the auspices of the National Alliance of Musical Theaters. Mr. Barrett has co-written a one-man show with the Chinese actor, Robert Lin, entitled MAO: Red Star & Blue Apple, and his play about the 19th century Chinese slave trade entitled, BARRACOON, recently had a reading with VOX Theater Company in Manhattan.
        Dean is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Mystery Writers of America, an affiliate of BMI (librettist), and a member of the China Round Table.

    This Website continues under construction and welcomes new citations and comments.

    Page updated February 1, May 19, 1998, March 26, 1999, February 4, 2001, by the Webmaster.

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