Monday, October 29, 2012

Review of "Voltaire & Frederick"


Meanwhile, over at The Arts Fuse as a follow-up to my discussion with Detlef Gericke-Schönhagen and Annette Klein of the Goethe-Institut Boston and artist-in-residence, Guy Ben-Aharon about German Stage, the Goethe-Institut's new initiative to bring German theatre to Boston audiences, I review a reading of Gericke-Schönhagen's play Voltaire & Frederick: A Life in Letters.

The reading, which is directed by Ben-Aharon and features Thomas Derrah as Voltaire and John Kuntz as Frederick II of Prussia, is touring both in New England and Canada.

[T]he letters frequently touch on issues as relevant today as they were in the eighteenth century: Voltaire’s objections to the repeated attempts of theologians to use state power to limit freedom of thought and expression echo powerfully in an era when creationists are attempting to ban the teaching of evolution or when Salman Rushdie lives under a fatwa for writing a novel. Voltaire’s arrest at the hands of Frederick’s government illustrates the degree in which leaders are imprisoned by the public roles they play. Frederick’s meditatations on the gap between his ideal of how the world should be and his responsibility to face the world as it is revealed an irony that Voltaire must have appreciated: the king had a strong distaste for the wars he was so good at winning.

There is also a surprisingly lively discussion in the comments section between Gericke-Schönhagen and my editor at The Arts Fuse, Bill Marx.

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