A new historically well-founded play is presented here by Alfred de Grazia. Theatrical companies, producers, representatives, and university dramatic associations are invited to read the farce, which has been called "hilarious" by one professional reader and "stunning" by a prominent French film director, et al., and, if they like it, to conduct readings, and, if they wish to produce it, to address themselves for permission by mail to Metron Publications, P.O.Box 1213, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA or via e-mail to at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charges for each single performance are: for theatres seating under 100 = $100.00; for theatres seating from 101 to 300 persons, $300.00; for theatres seating over 300 = $1000.00. This is for information only; for a legal arrangement, interested parties should address the above. Correspondence of a critical nature should be addressed to theauthor as above.
All 28* are dressed in fin de siecle costumes, exaggeratedly so.
Emile Zola, Most famous Author
Captain Alfred Dreyfus, ex-Army officer, cashiered and convicted of treason
Guard of Dreyfus at Devil's Island
President Felix Faure of France, a broad-framed, corpulent bon vivant*
Cardinal Richard, Archbishop of Paris*
Adolphe Steinheil, artist, portraitist of President Faure*
Albert, His Most Serene Highness, Prince of Monaco*
Mme "Meg" Steinheil, mistress of President Faure, wife of Adolphe Steinheil and artist's model
Monsieur Blondel, Private Secretary to the President
Secretary of President, woman in her forties, thin, nervous, dressed like secretary in early typewriter ads
Mme Faure, wife of the President
Mlle Faure, daughter of President and Mme Faure
Republican Guards (Bodyguards of the President), two*
Dr. Mehieu, Medical Doctor of the President*
President Emile Loubet, prompt successor to Pres. Faure
Minister of Justice *
Georges "The Tiger" Clemenceau, Editor of "L'Aurore,"
Dreyfusard, future Premier
Colonel Charles Piquart, Intelligence Officer who proves Dreyfus innocent*
Fernand Labori, Attorney of Dreyfus*
* The starred characters might play double or treble roles.
Places: Paris, France and Devil's Island, French Guyana
Time: 1899 or thereabouts
Sets: The stage presents a large central office with two doors leading out, rear and left, and a small part sectioned off on the right, with no visible door.
There is also a window to the left with light from behind and front, and in the beginning, and at intervals, (signaled by *** Zola in the text ) a tumult is heard there and a sign sticks up, expressing a succession of slogans such as "J'accuse! Militarists". In each case, the placard is signed "Zola," and the head of the man holding up the placard is actually Zola. They are held up for 30 seconds and then pulled down. The Presidents are the only ones who see the placards, except on two occasions. When the placards go up, these point to them and say "look," and people simply look and go on with whatever they are doing, shaking their head as the President shakes his head. However in the last scene, everyone does see and hear the tumult from the window.
Center stage is the office of the President of France. It has gorgeous classical paintings in ornate frames, which fill the walls, plush furniture and rugs, a large table desk and especially a recamier. An apparently unfinished portrait stands on an easel out of the way, a cloth hanging from it, lines of a profile sketched on it. This is removed after Scene 3.
The sectioned off stage on the right holds a pick and shovel, piles of dirt, a hole. It is capable of jet darkness and of bright sunlight. Whenever the light is on here, the loud sound of a swarm of mosquitos is to be heard.
The hot light of the tropics opens on Alfred Dreyfus, a prisoner, digging. Expectedly gaunt, he is unaccountably neat and shaven.
Guard: (Speaking with a long rolling Provencal 'r' as he would a German name:) Dreyfus. The Commandant says you are a model for the prisoners. So you can stop for today, Jew-boy.
Dreyfus: (Stands up erect, and barks out) No, not without finishing this latrine.
Guard: Shit on the latrine. I am hot. Come on. You are getting an extra bowl of soup.
Lights up center stage on President's office. Light not bright but all is shockingly evident. President and Mme Steinheil are at recamier. A final orgasmic howl emits from the President. He sprawls back with head lolling over edge, left leg stretched out on couch, right leg planted on floor. He is motionless. He is naked. Both hands are grasping the heavy curly head of Mme. Steinheil to his crotch. She is dressed, but her pumps are off.
Muffled sounds from Mme. Then anguished choking screams. She is struggling. Her legs and torso move but she apparently cannot extricate her head.
Blondel: Enters and hurries forward. He looks anxiously about and then tries pulling at her shoulders to free her. It is in vain. He calls through the open door, "Help, boys, come quick."
Two burly Republican Guards, in their gorgeous uniforms, come in, and stand in astonishment at the door.
(*** Zola: "J'accuse Corrupt Politicians" -- but nobody notices)
"Well, come on, you assholes, help me, dammit." They move toward him. One takes her leg, another an arm, they tug hesitantly.
But she screams. "Stop it! Owww!"
They stand up, baffled, what to do?
First guard: "What's with the chief? "
Second guard: "Chef, Monsieur President! Please, if you will, please remove your hands -- si'l vous plais."
No response. "Please! Monsieur President!"
Guard: He's dead.
A scream from Mme Steinheil. She thrashes about, to no avail.
Blondel: Get a knife, get scissors. One hurries out. Where are they? This time comes back with female secretary, who screams and faints. But she had scissors (before she dropped them) and Blondel picks them up.
Mme Steinheil: Don't, don't. ( but then ) Go ahead, oh God, go ahead. He snips lock -- but cut the grey ones first!
Lock after lock, muttering, shouting incoherently -- he yells at a guard -
Blondel: Go get Dr. Mehieu. You, (to the other guard) call the Archbishop .. No,.. don't,.. shit,.. fuck!
First guard hurries off. The woman from the office revives, and begins whimpering, which she does for the rest of the scene, whenever appropriate to stress a point.
The men pull, they free Madame. The President's arms lay stiff with clutching fingers taut and holding hair. A Guard covers him with his kimono.
Doctor arrives. Also the Inspector.
Doctor: "Well, well.. What have we here? ..Dead? ... No. ..Not quite... A stroke... Paralyzed.... Don't move him. Cover him up for god's sake. Look at that dong - stands ready to go again, a real satyr that man."
Blondel: It was oral sex and a heart attack , Doctor.
Doctor: That's all very well for you to say. But I am the Doctor. It is I who have to make the report. (Accusingly.)You moved the bodies!
Blondel: Of course.
Doctor: But not "of course." There is the no small matter of my professional reputation. A brain stroke, a heart attack - is that enough? You say fellatio -- what's this "oral sex" business, another Americanism? -- but was there also cunnilingus?
Looks over at Mme Steinheil "Are you all right? "
Mme Steinheil: She is slumped onto the rug, sobbing."My hair! my hairrr!! How can I pose tomorrow?? That bastard. Look what he's done to me now!
Wife and daughter of President enter hurriedly.
Mme Faure: What is all this? What happened? Why did you frighten us so? Felix! Get up. What happened? Where are your pantaloons??
(She looks up at the Doctor.) Is he alive?
Doctor: Yes, but ...
Mme Faure: Oh, but you frightened me so.
Doctor: Yes, but, you see, he's unconscious.
Mme Faure: She shakes Felix. Felix, wake up!
Doctor: Madame please. Observe. He is in a coma, it is very serious. Even fatal. He may never wake up. Compose yourself.
Mme Faure: What happened, yes, what happened ?
Doctor: As I was saying, when you interrupted.. He was a strong man - was it the "sixty-nine act"? The extra strain would be too much, perhaps. I don't want some inquiry into my professional competence.
Daughter: (aghast) Mamman!
Mme Faure: (pleading) Inspector!
Inspector: Yes, yes, don't worry, Madame. I will testify on the report. No cunnilingus, no soixante-neuf - just fellatio, pure and simple.
Mme Steinheil: (Rising from floor): That's the way, sure, save the man, it's all the woman's doing.
Inspector: But he's the President, Madame.
Mme Steinheil: What if I say that the old goat was just picking hairs from between his teeth? Just that, and more. Should I tell you that just before our final moments, the pig was...
She pauses, looks about, and then leans over to whisper in the doctor's ear - he looks stunned, she shakes his shoulder vigorously, and whispers again. The stage is frozen still. He takes off his glasses, inspects them, rubs his nose, puts them back again.
Doctor: ..Well, well. (Then, determinedly.) All right. So be it. Massive stroke. The pressures of overwork. Severe headaches all morning. Cut short his appointments.
Everyone, except Madame Steinheil, swings to face audience and proclaims in unison (note the accents and syllable-ization :
Mme Faure:(Notices Mme Steinheil, who has resumed sobbing. Is moved to console her.) Don't cry, my dear, be assured that he will recover. Anyhow, it wasn't your fault...(Noticing now the hair) Whatever happened to your hair?"
Mme Steinheil: (points to the corpse screaming.) HE did it!
Mme Faure: How could he? He is practically dead.
Mme Steinheil: What a stupid cunt! .. Well he wasn't then! O.K. (She quickly makes up a story.) He got angry and grabbed me and started cutting my hair.
Daughter: What did you do to make him so passionate?
Mme Steinheil: Passionate, that's it. The swine, always chasing me around.
Inspector: Madame, you are not quite fair. He may be dead, or dying, or whatever - pardon me, Mme Faure - but he was a decent gentleman.
Mme Steinheil: Oh, it's you now, I suppose you imagine now you might have another go at me, a second chance. But just remember what I said when it was you who were chasing me around your office: Fuck off... Before I kick you in the balls.
Inspector: Madame, I was seized by lust. I apologize for any inconvenience I caused you. As for now, bien - there is no law against cocksuckers. Au contraire, vive le sport. Apropos, why has no one called a priest?
(*** Zola -- J'accuse "stupid police")
Mme. Steinheil (Scornfully.) Incompetent cunt! Where were you when Zola sneaked off to England? There's a man for you. I'd take him on any day.
Inspector:( He is huffing and puffing, and gurgles with rage.) Madame, that is enough!
She stalks out of the room in high indignation, carrying her shoes, and takes a swipe at him with the pointy heel of one of them, narrowly missing.
Inspector: Now it's your turn, Blondel. Explain what happened.
Blondel begins to explain: they stand attentive, withdrawn to the right from the couch and scene of action.
Blondel speaks in a narrative voice and in the historical present tense.
Blondel: It is mid-afternoon. The Archbishop of Paris has arrived to speak to the President. I seat him in the anteroom. I come into the President's office. Monsieur President, Sir, I say, his Excellency the Archbishop of Paris has arrived on the matter of the women who refuse to wear veils in the Mass.
As Blondel begins to speak to the others, the President arises without anyone paying attention to him or he to they. He pulls on his suit and patent slippers. He stamps his foot into his shoe loudly. Others turn to him absentmindedly, without saying anything. Apparently he is now visible again, but the others are simply listening now, just auditors and viewers to what goes on, and standing rather off to the rear, leaving the front stage and right and left to the approaching transactions.
Blondel: The Archbishop of Paris is arriving. It is four o'clock. He is a little late ...
President Faure: (now back in action again) Don't talk so much Blondel, admit His Excellency."
Archbishop: (Starts spouting as he puts out his hand for kissing.) I have much to say and little time in which to say it - thanks to the irreligious playwright - so please listen carefully. Discipline is breaking down in the churches. 13% (plus or minus 4% margin for error) fewer women have worn hats and veils during the mass this year when compared with the same period last year. 22% wore only one or the other. The trend is increasing no matter what efforts the priest and deacons make to correct the practice. By the turn of the century, two years from now, only 31% are expected to observe the rule.
President: (Shakes head, visibly impressed.)Tsk, tsk.
(*** Zola -- "J'accuse Church Hierarchy")
Archbishop: You see what happens. One rotten apple spoils the barrel. Dreyfus is dying, as well he should - the damned Jew - on Devil's Island, and now the other traitors - the freemasons, Jews, socialists, anarchists, whores, and scoundrels like the playwright are getting ready to bring him back. And soon the churches will be deserted, the priests driven out of the land, our property confiscated. France will be crucified by its foreign enemies, the spies, the atheists like Zola. They are a front for German spies, and the feminists are worse than the Germans -- and how are Mme Faure and your daughter? lovely family, God Bless You (raising his hand in blessing), good-bye.
He turns to go, but then swings around again. Of course, I forgot, very important. Let me congratulate you on the vote in the Chamber this morning. Now that we will have all 48 members of the Court of Cassation voting, instead of the 16 of the Criminal Division, we shall have a chance at slamming the door shut against the Drefusards. Clever boy, eh? (He wags his finger, and flashes a sly approving smile at the President.)
The Church, the Army, the Parliament, and now the Judiciary, what? great show. Let's put all these liberal creeps behind bars - or worse. We will have France in our hands. And give the common herd the whip and prayers they need.
Without ceremony, Albert, Prince of Monaco, backs into the room, for he is made known by a shout from the departing Archbishop.
Archbishop: My Most Serene Highness Prince! You should be paying at least 10% of your gambling profits to the Church!.. Al! You are a back-slider!
Prince: (over his shoulder as he ducks into the room) Yes, yes..
But as the Prince enters, there is a ruckus in the anteroom, and a bearded man, obviously from his demeanor and appearance an artist, pushes through and into the office, a brush and easel tucked in his arm.
Blondel: Monsieur Steinheil! Not today, not now!
Steinheil: A sitting! I need another sitting.
President Faure: What, another sitting! I just paid you for the last!
Steinheil: Monsieur President, when I come all the way here, I must be paid, sitting or no sitting.
President Faure: Very well. Blondel, the usual stipendium. You know, of course, that Mme Steinheil is expected?
Steinheil: (sullenly) Of course. We came together. (Says confidingly as he is leaving with Blondel), I've nothing to sell but my art and my wife, and my art ain't selling.
President Faure:: Ah, M. le Prince! I am looking forward to seeing you at the tables next week.
Prince: (He has a rather stupid air about him.) The pleasure is mutual. I trust that your luck will hold.
President Faure: You are my good luck charm, Prince. How can France help you at this moment?
Prince: It's a matter of my son, Monsieur President, a good boy, you know him, a wastrel - naturally - a poor student - nine years in University - I am looking for a wife for him -- a bonne femme, you know, aristocratic, demure, a homebody, maybe even virginal, a decent fortune - one million, ten million, gold, Francs.
President Faure: Paris seems hardly the place for your bride, Monsieur. Have you tried Philadelphia?
Prince: A tres bon idea, Monsieur President.
(*** Zola -- "J'accuse Militarists")
President Faure: There's that damned hallucination again... You must excuse me, Prince, my mind is preoccupied with arranging the new Dreyfus Court for a re-trial of the case. This time we'll get him for good.
Prince: Oh, yes, Monsieur President, I have important information for you from the Kaiser -it's really what I came for.
President Faure: The German Kaiser? Spare me the bad news. He wants another War?
Prince: No, Monsieur. I asked him about Dreyfus, and he told me, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, that Dreyfus was in no way connected with German intelligence. You have the wrong man, he says.
President Faure: So do you. Tell it to Zola. The Kaiser should say Dreyfus was his spy. That would help Dreyfus more. You make me laugh.
Prince: Bien. Then let me try this on you for more laughs. If you bring back Dreyfus from Devil's Island for re-trial, he is not really a prisoner, so what say you hold the trial in Cannes, and we keep him in our modernized prison in Monaco during the new trial? There he could be seen from time to time walking along the lookout point of his jail on the cliffs, and both Dreyfusards and Anti-Dreyfusards could see him. It would help tourism.
(*** Zola: Placard reads "Good Idea!")
President Faure: Are you mad? They would riot every weekend! You would be destroyed. I would have to annex the Principality of Monaco and send the Army in. The Army is running the show anyway, not I.
Prince: Oh, well, it was just a thought.
President Faure: Don't think, Monsieur le Prince. France does the thinking for Monaco. .. Besides, I doubt that Dreyfus will be back soon. I have hopes that the High Court will let the Army do its work. He rubs his hands and grins wickedly.
And now I must excuse myself. I will look for a virgin for your son. Not an easy task. Maybe a semi-demi-quasi virgin.. Just now I have a pressing appointment.
Then his mistress is let in by the back door, her shoes on, chic, her hair well-coiffed and ample ( wig matching her "natural" hair- actually also a wig -- so much of which had been mangled and clipped).
President begins to undress again. "No, No !!" ... they all gather in a football huddle." No, no , no." They hurl advice at him, going out of character if they feel like it: macho exhortations, shocked calls, averted eyes, compliments on her bottom, etc. (It is difficult to tell whether they are in a feeding frenzy over past deeds, future deeds, or deeds in general.)
But he does continue, and shouts "Get out, all of you!" and drives them, voicing their various hypocritical and moral expressions, from the office, whereupon he returns relaxing to the couch, chortling, unrepentant.
President Faure: Let's do it again.
She does the same and the two are interlocked once more when the scene ends -- darkness.
In darkness, the right stage is again illuminated. The guard is disheveled, sweating, and there is Dreyfus, a neat man, digging precisely.
Guard: Enough of this work. It will kill you, and I have orders not to kill you.
Dreyfus: (in a businesslike voice) This is recreation gardening to keep me sane. Just let me cut this edge of the ditch a little sharper... "Detail makes for perfection and perfection is no detail."
Guard: Fuck off. (Makes as if to hit him with the butt of his rifle.)
Dreyfus: But that was Michelangelo.
Guard: Fuck him, too, the goddam macaroni, fuck the whole goddamned world. I would rather be a prisoner, like I used to be - in the good old days, before my pardon... (Wistfully.) No responsibilities.. It's guys like you who make it tough for the other prisoners."
He coughs up pflegm and spits, narrowly missing Dreyfus, who doesn't flinch. "I'm too dry to spit properly, even. One of my oysters used to knock a prisoner down."
President Loubet: Are the ghouls assembled?
Blondel: Yes, Monsieur President. Even men with the newest and biggest cameras have come. They want pictures of the recamier, and of you, of course. But, Monsieur President, there has never been a Presidential press conference before in France. In fact there won't be one anywhere until Franklin Delano Roosevelt calls the first one in Washington in 1933.
President Loubet: What are you, some kind of a futurist, a prophet? This is 1899 and who is this F.D.R. anyhow? If I want a press conference and my playwright wants a press conference, we'll have a press conference. I can handle it. So get your ass out there.
(Aloud, into the sky.) The future is everywhere - past, present, here, there. Time is the invention of scared priests -- to order everything nicely, until the Last Great Day!
Blondel opens door and 4 news reporters and 3 cameramen -- one with camera, the others with heavy apparatus -- hustle in, pushing him aside.
The media representatives slouch around , peering here and there. They don't even have notebooks in hands, excepting for one well-dressed reporter, who is interrupted twice by others who beg a piece of his tablet and snatch a pencil from the President's table.
First Reporter: Your Excellency. Greetings from the respectful press, on your second day in office. Has order been restored to France following the tragedy of President Faure?
President Loubet: Yes. Only seven mass demonstrations and six shootings yesterday, most of them by anti-Dreyfusards, I am pleased to say. My new government intends to defend itself by all means. Evil elements are working, as always, against the Republic. Carry this message to your readers: . It is the moment for all good men to come to the aid of their country. Peace, work, bread: those will be our mottos. Healing wounds, yes. And I am getting threats from anti-Dreyfus people: Please beg your readers to lay off me.
(***.. Zola: "J'accuse Rotten Press)
Reporter A: How is your heart, Mr. President?
President Loubet: Perfect, I am in perfect health. Furthermore, unlike my predecessor, I feel no need for heavy exercise... So I intend to pursue vigorously the questions of Alsace, the Suez Canal, Algeria, and Tunis, ..not to mention the domestic questions of the welfare of the French worker, the regulation of houses of prostitution, the...
Reporter B.: What happened to the locks of hair...
President Loubet: What hair?
Reporter B. You know.. The hair cut off from Mme Steinheil.
President Loubet: And I shall certainly seek legislation to stop the menacing encroachment of American culture on French institutions. Under every bridge of Paris and in every pissoir lurks an American... Next question.
Reporter C.: What will you do about ex-Captain Dreyfus?
President Loubet: The matter is now in the hands of the full Court of Cassation, 48 men good and true. I shall abide by their decision, especially if it is correct, which I know it will be.
Reporter D.: They say the hair of Madame Steinheil has been sold for 1000 francs. Did you know that?
President Loubet: Rubbish. Who is "they"?
Reporter D: The French Public, Monsieur President.
President Loubet: Oh, bien alors. Another grave scandal. A Commission to investigate will be appointed as soon as you leave.
He motions surreptitiously to Blondel, who shouts clearly,
Blondel: Thank you Mr. President, and, This way gentlemen, leading the now protesting reporters out.
President Loubet: Good, eh? Is that the way the American President will do it?
Blondel: Exactement, Monsieur President.
President Loubet: What a mistake to let them ask questions.
Blondel: No problem, Monsieur President. .. F.D.R. will take questions, too. All the American Presidents will. And they will handle them just as I did when they want to close. Pretty clever, no? You wink. I say, "Thank you, gentlemen." Americans are not so stupid as we think.
He sidles toward door so as to admit the next caller, but is attentive to the President.
President Loubet: Blondel, Americanism is already spreading in France like the plague. We must pass a law against it... We will stop the future in its tracks! And if you don't stop your crazy futurism, you'll end up in Foggy Bottom.. I suppose you know what that's like already?
Blondel: Yes, Monsieur President. It's as hot and moist as the cunt of Mme. Steinheil...
President Loubet: Don't mention that woman again. She's a terror! ...Washington is taking over the world while France is enjoying oral sex, and not enough babies to provide cannon fodder for a war against Luxembourg. You will never find such shit going on in the White House, will you?
Blondel: Well, as a matter of fact, Monsieur President...
President Loubet: Not another word, Blondel.
(*** Zola: "J'accuse Mad Monarchists")
Enter the Minister of Justice, led by Blondel.
Blondel: His Excellency, the Minister of Justice.
Minister: Ah, my good President. How lucky we are, with you, as our chief, all goes well with la belle France. I have come to inform you of the future.
President Loubet: Fine, fine. Let's get everything over at once, Past, Present, and Future.
Minister: The Special Triple High Court for High Treason, will have found Dreyfus wrongly condemned, and will order the Army to try him again.
President Loubet: Try him again? How can forty-eight judges be unanimously crazy? The Generals will convict Dreyfus again They will never admit a mistake. How do you imagine they have lost all these wars?
Minister: Correct, Monsieur President. So indeed the judges are wise men. Half of them want the Army to shoot itself in the foot. The other half want Dreyfus to be convicted again. Voilà.
President Loubet: But that's a contradiction! Half will win and half will lose.
Minister: No matter. For that is where you come in. You reject the Army Court Martial. You grant a pardon to Dreyfus.
President Loubet: A pardon! But he is innocent. Why should he be pardoned?
Minister: For the good of France, your excellency.
President Loubet: But that's what got us into all this trouble in the beginning! Moreover, the Army will revolt, I will be assassinated. Etc., etc.
Minister: No sir, no sir. Please. There is the future that really happens, and the future that does not happen. The Army will not oppose the pardon of Dreyfus. Why? Because you will declare an amnesty for all the scoundrelly officers who should be tried, convicted, and dishonorably discharged.
President Loubet: So that's the way it will happen! I get it.
But we had better get around to it before the other Republican Superpower turns its attention to us.
Minister: Who is that, Sir?
President Loubet: The Americans, my simple ami! Why am I the only one obsessed by the Americans around here? I'll give you a future to equal your future! In two years, the American Century will begin. Do you know that? And where shall we be?
They've just blown up the Spanish Empire. They're swarming around the Caribbean like eels. They are refusing to take part in the magnificent Paris Centennial World Fair out of sympathy for Dreyfus.
Minister: Americans, Monsieur, are sincere hypocrites,. Therefore they can do anything they please. See how they treat the Negroes -- while we are pilloried over a single Jew.
President Loubet: For all we know, they may be on their way to Guyana right now. Their Jews are aroused and dishing out shekels, an Irish corsair is preparing a sortie, Teddy Roosevelt is again boiling for a fight. In the name of the Monroe Doctrine, Dreyfus is being used by the world conspiracy against France.
Oh, go ahead, allez-hop.
Minister: We shall happily announce to the world, that there will be justice in the fullest of courts in the history of France, that the many new judges have aggrandized the law such that even a small case involving a Jew, will be properly judged. The lady who knows how to shake a man's loins has cleared the way for us to correct our eminently fair judgement by the expected eminently fair pardon, else France, with all the world's best law would have been compromised with the guilt of this innocent man. How great the system of justice that condemns the innocent for the glory of the nation, while letting him slip away, unharmed -
President Loubet: Unharmed except for total disgrace, and years on a boiling rock. .. I said go ahead. Aren't you expected somewhere?
(*** Zola: J'accuse Political Judges)
Lights illuminate Dreyfus' dirt pile. His pick and shovel are standing crossed. The guard is sitting on a camp stool, disconsolate. He looks up and out at the audience.
Guard:(Shouts.) Fuck off! Fous-le-camp! He's gone! Gone home to France, the lucky dog.
Lights go out.
Lights come on immediately after Scene 7 ends, and there he is, Dreyfus. He has shaken off his prison clothes, and dresses in simple elegant mock-uniform without medals and bars. With the help of the President, he is engaged studiously in rolling out a big document, very big, ten feet by three feet, with swatches of red ribbons that must be used to retie the document. It has " The Pardon" written large all over it, and various indeterminate "whereas's", "by order of", "authority," etc. And Emile Zola, wearing a cape and long scarlet foulard, is looking on, with a gas mask slung over his shoulder. But so, too, are Clemenceau (his clothing badly torn in a narrow escape from the mob), Piquart (in a convict suit and kepi), and Labori (wearing a heavy bandage around his neck and under the left arm).
President Loubet: A fine resemblance to a uniform that you are wearing, Monsieur Dreyfus.
Dreyfus: I designed it myself, Monsieur President. It is not G.I., but the High Command permits me to wear it. Still, I long for the moment when I can walk the streets with the bars and medals of an officer and gentleman.
He examines stonily the document, which is draped over a chair at its middle. The President tries to penetrate his rigidity and stolidity, to little avail.
President Loubet: turns to Zola. I suppose you think that you are very clever, M Zola, huh? Great writer, arouses the nation, the whole damned universe, from Stockholm to San Francisco.
Zola: A little respect, Monsieur. Captain Dreyfus is a sick man. Are you not, Mon Capitain?
Dreyfus: No, not at all.
Zola: Beh! (In disgust).
President Loubet: I am sure you will feel fully restored, given this magnificent testimonial to your innocence, Capitain, Monsieur.
Zola: You should reject the Pardon. You have done nothing to be pardoned for. The Republic of France should be begging you for a pardon. Right, Piquart? Right, Labori? Right, Clemenceau? (They nod grimly in turn.)
Piquart: I am a man of few words. But this is what I think. (He grabs an end of the pardon and brusquely tears it off. Dreyfus and the President are taken aback.)
Dreyfus and President: Mais Non! Colonel Piquart, Mais Non!
Labori: Sometimes I think you must be guilty, Dreyfus! (He grabs the pardon at the middle and rends it - Dreyfus actually helps him because of his bad arm - in two.) Voilà!
Dreyfus and President: Mais Non! Counselor Labori, Mais Non!
(Clemenceau also grabs an end of the document.) Et tu, Tiger?
Clemenceau: Oui, me, too. I wrote 800 articles for you, Dreyfus. Do you know what?: You are the only man in France who knows nothing about the Dreyfus Affair! ( He picks up the half portion, tears a piece from it, and waves it in the air.) If you accept this rubbish, they will give an amnesty to all the crooks who condemned you! ( He begins a kind of march around the group, waving the paper. ) "A-bas le pardon! A-bas le pardon! "
Seeing this, Labori does the same, followed by Zola, who has picked up the fourth and last piece, and then Piquart, until all four are tramping around the President and Dreyfus like Indians, chanting "A-bas le Pardon!"
Dreyfus: (Worried and pious.) But gentlemen, that is a Government Document!
Suddenly all four stop, and together exclaim: Dreyfus, we are disgusted. (They drop the pieces in the center.)
Labori: One man is saved, but justice is destroyed.
Clemenceau: Let him be. Victims are not meant to be heroes. Four heroes are enough for the occasion.
President: (Sarcastically) And Madame Meg Steinheil? The fifth hero! She assassinated my predecessor! They all look at him, their minds boggling. He drops to his knees and begins examining the pieces. He suddenly straightens up, one piece in hand and says triumphantly: This will do. It has my signature!
He is still on the floor when the door bursts open and Mmes Steinheil and Faure stride into the room. All the men look stupefied.
Mme. Faure: (Loudly and tearfully.) Just listen to her! She is going to write a "Kiss and Tell!"
The men: A what?
Mme. Faure: A "Kiss and Tell." She is writing for 500 francs the whole sordid story!
The men: (Incredulously) Mais, no-on!?
Mme. Steinheil: I certainly am! And you will all look bad -- but very bad.
Mme. Faure: Stop her!
Zola: But that is too little money!
Clemenceau: I will pay more!
President Loubet: But why? Mme. Steinheil.
Mme Steinheil: For my reputation! For my husband! We are poor, and my sugar daddy is dead. (Mme Faure lets out a wail.)
Labori: One more disaster in this case could ruin us all.
President Loubet: No, wait. I have an idea!
Mme. Faure: Stop her!
President Loubet: (Paying no attention to her.) Listen to me, Mme. Steinheil, Meg - if you will permit me - You will not to have to write anything, you need not spoil your beautiful, almond-shaped, green-tinted, hazel eyes. Your husband need only finish the portrait of President Faure, the same one that he has been working on for the last 19 months, and the reception it will receive will, I assure you, guarantee that he will be invited to become a member of the Order of the Legion of Honor. And as an eminent member of the Legion, he will be the most sought-after portrait painter in all of Paris - with the possible exception of Bouguereau, of course -- and just imagine your own possibilities!
Mme Faure: That's it!
All the others (except Dreyfus, who appears quite left out of things): That's it!
Everyone holds his (her) breath looking at Mme.Steinheil.
Mme. Steinheil: (Her face expresses bafflement, then doubt, then a growing comprehension, then an enthusiastic cry.) Yes, that's it!
(Mme Faure grasps her hand in gratitude.)
President Loubet: Good. D'accord. Clemenceau, we expect press support from our critics in the media.
Clemenceau: Very well.
President Loubet: Now, as I was saying, (and he holds the torn paper up once again, extending it to Dreyfus) I am honored to grant to you, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, this precious document, my pardon to you, in the name of the people of France.
Dreyfus: He accepts the torn paper with dignity. I will accept the pardon, but continue to fight for vindication. (Tense, uncertain.) Monsieur Zola, I owe an obligation to France, to cause no more harm to Her than is absolutely necessary in order to accept grace for myself.
President Loubet: Well put, Capitain, Monsieur. You are a practical man, and recognize that for the good of La Belle France the scandal must be buried. (Soothing and suave.) Perhaps you should emigrate to America, Monsieur, Mon Capitain. They have so many people like you there - people with, how would you say it? - with legal problems -- people who start life over again. It is the land of the future. The future! (Solemnly) " Whoever forgets the future will have to endure it." He adds as an afterthought, And it will be safer for you personally.
He takes Dreyfus by the arm comfortingly, and, the two men, turning their backs on Zola, start to leave the room. At the same time, a loud set of noises occurs from the window. We hear the approach of a band blaring out John Philip Sousa's full brass refrain from "The Stars and Stripes Forever" march.
President Loubet: (Hears and turns back, shouting) It's John Philip Sousa's Band. The Americans are coming to the World's Fair of Paris, after all! What benevolent and mercenary suckers! The Yanks are coming!The Yanks are coming!
At the open window, there appears a teddy bear and the grinning face of Theodore Roosevelt. They all see it now and holler enthusiastically, "It's Teddy Roosevelt!" All of them now hasten out the door, all except Zola.
Zola: (dejectedly) There goes the crowd. I am their leader. I refuse to follow them! (Then he becomes visibly furious.)
Zola, facing first the window, and then the audience frontally, delivers now an impassioned "j'accuse" against the Muck of Tradition. After his first few lines, he mounts a chair, delivering himself from there, then hops to the great desk as he grows impassioned. It is actually a declamatory poem, a polemic.
Zola: Miserable muck! Mass existence!
Snakes slithering around the obese ankles of tradition! Who was it that cut your hearts to pieces, and fed them to your masters, a ventricle, the left, for the State, a ventricle, the right, for The Mad Cause, the Army got your coronaries, while the Church swallowed your spark. Given each one a hearty bite, from all of you that really matters, then see what's left inside - Nothing, Nothing left over - now, bark! apes, cough and bark!
Climbs on chair
Wave your pricks and flash your cunts, until your juices dry and skin is creased.
When Politics born of sex subsides, there is no need to cease with these:
Your dark future holds a galaxy of horrors. There are wars to come, beyond belief, where small machine-guns lead your wine-soaked sad-faced legions among trenches of death, labyrinths of endless pain.
Snarling , torturing prejudice, well-practiced on Alfred Dreyfus, have made him the archetype for the murder of millions.
The cast comes streaming back in, but more and more, until everyone who has been in the cast is on the boards. Add a trombonist from the Band, ushers, children, ad libitum. They stand with their backs to the audience, looking up at Zola, who has meanwhile hopped up onto the table.
Lucky the man who dies fucking, never mind the position he's found in. Lucky the country saved by the woman possessed. O rapists of liberty. O asshole buddies of equality! O rabble of fraternity! I beg once more of you: Turn your backs to history, to abnegate the future. And be kinder, gentler, beneficent, benevolent, all ye beastly humans!
(Repeats the triplet.)
As he is delivering his last sentence, that he repeats several times, louder and louder, each time flapping open his cape like a bat, the whole cast steps lively around him once in a large counterclockwise spiral, ending up with its lead couple at the right of stage. Couples arm in arm and trios proceed. Two or three might be carrying placards contradicting their role, as for example the guards, with the greatest contradiction possible of character, role and appearance - Mme Steinheil happily with the Inspector, for example; try to pair them off so that the audience can ask themselves " Why this couple? What's the contradiction here?" and answer the question. As the head of the line reaches around to the front of Zola, it begins the chant "Kinder and gentler, kinder and gentler.." Which is picked up by all as they reach the front, still standing in profile to the audience.
All: Kinder and Gentler, Kinder and Gentler... etc.
When all are toward the front of the stage, Zola shuts up, covers his head with shame, while the whole cast performs a right-face full to the audience and, cheerfully defiant in face and tone, shouts as one voice,
If things here seem quite confused, it's because they really are.
The characters bow in unison and when they straighten up, they call out:
Now they swivel around, backs to audience, bend over and bump their bums.
Then they turn clockwise to face the audience, and all together they give a high cabaret can-can kick. As they kick, they shout the word "Vive!" and then add the rest of the words.
Originally the play was composed to begin with a monologue by Emile Zola. The author withdrew the passages, and began with the present scene on Devil's Island. Since the story of the Dreyfus Affair has become vague in memory, it is repeated here as Zola would have said it.
The stage is dark except for a dull spotlight on the left. We hear the sound of rainfall. Emile Zola, a nondescript type, carrying an umbrella, shambles into the light, from offstage. He wears a scarlet foulard that extends to his knees, over a cape. When he speaks, he orates and gesticulates -- a big voice.
Zola: It serves me right, me, Emile Zola. I excited the whole nation, what a thrill, to sell a million newspapers, but here I am, exiled in London, all for a good turn, a noble deed, ruined, separated from my family, no fans, no groupies - my books banned by the Puritan creeps, ah bien, it's better than Devil's Island, what a sweat for poor Dreyfus.
Let me tell you the story. And if you think it's comical, just remember how our theatre dawned with three absurd events. For on what turned Homer's Trojan War? -- a war of the nations over a whore, the childish rage of Achilles, and the preposterous trick of the wooden horse.
Here we give you a tragedy of France in your great-grandfather's time, where two hostile camps battled over a bagatelle. One drew its demons from the Army, the Church, monarchists, Jew-haters, and xenophobes. It boasted a raucous, vile press. The other camp chose liberals, socialists, utopians, and republicans -- and 2000 years of Roman Law.
Their antics in a twelve-year war reduced the nation to folly compounded. Mobs roamed the streets, politicians rose and fell, the whole world turned against France, while the Kaiser sneered, "Let the frogs destroy themselves, the puffed-up clowns. They won't believe me when I say we had nothing to do with Dreyfus."
Center stage remains quite dim, but not so much so as to surprise the audience when they do finally view it. Murmurs, moans and squeals of ecstasy begin coming from the imperceptible couch. Zola looks around, puzzled, but then proceeds.
I shall play a part in this story, and must be serious -- you may laugh, please do -- but I must be serious, if I am to play my part.
A mere tiny spark became the candescent representation of global right and decency.
There was this man of Alsace. Of German name, quite common there, who was a wealthy Jewish rake. He was an avid patriot Frenchman, quintessential professional officer, embarrassingly correct in every detail.
But a crazy crook of the French General Staff, a typical, triple-faced, four-flusher, Hungarian noble, Esterhazy, sent balderdash marked secret, with a note attached, in a handwriting like Dreyfus' to a German officer, who tossed it in the wastebasket, where a scrubwoman found it, and, as instructed to do, stuck it in her dirty gown, and surrendered it to her contact , who handed over the balderdash to the Generals, who panicked.
Seizing upon Dreyfus the bore, as devil, enemy, spy, they built a fraudulent dossier, and banded in mutual support of their compounded offenses.
In a paranoid fury, they turned upon Dreyfus, browbeat him, convicted him - swearing his innocence - and sent him to a hell-hole for life.
Yet his wife and brother would not give him up. Too, the conspiracy unraveled. Major Henry, forger and relentless harasser, was exposed by Colonel Piquart and killed himself. Esterhazy was tried, acquitted by a fixed Army Court, but fled the country and lived dissolute and in disgrace in England. Good Colonel Piquart was sent to Africa to be killed, but since he did not oblige was jailed.
The anti-Dreyfus President died an unseemly death, in embarrassing circumstances. and was replaced by a Dreyfusard President. The specially formed Court of Cassation, now 48 judges in cases of treason, ordered Dreyfus brought back, and quashed the Army trial, but unfortunately ordered retrial by the same Army generals, who again found him guilty, angering the whole world, whereupon the President could safely pardon him.
But pardon was a wretched subterfuge. Acquittal, with compensation, was imperative. So we fought on, thus they falsely jailed Charles Piquart, mobbed "Tiger" Clemenceau, shot Fernand Labori. poisoned me with coal gas, wounded Dreyfus, until another seven years had passed, when finally his record was cleared of all infamy by a resounding vote of the Parliament, led by Clemenceau. It helps to have a politician as a friend - even an honest politician.
Light off on left, switches on at right of stage.