The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)


Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2014-2015 Season:
Next to Normal
It's A Wonderful Life
One Night in Miami
Herzog Rep
After the Revolution
4000 Miles
Play Labs

The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.


Cyrano, meet Munchausen

Since Drew has taken us down the proverbial Rabbit Hole of Méliès films, that provides an interesting intersection for another set of crossover associations with Cyrano de Bergerac: the fabulous, fabular, fabulating Baron Munchausen (or Munchhausen). Both of them longtime favorites of mine, and I’ve always thought the two had much in common as quasi-mythic literary inspirations from real-life originals who were in some respects even more incredible than their fictional manifestations. Both share qualities as tellers of tall-tales, mad monarchs of mendacity, believers in the fantastic, proponents of panache, and (if traditional illustrations like these are to be credited), proud possessors of profile-enhancing probosci. Not to mention both being, at least in imagination, lunar travelers.

Like Don Quixote and others of a small fraternity, they both challenge the omnipotent imperium of Fact, and prod the world of Empiricism that’s been working on purifying itself for centuries. They also challenge our imagination in wildly and eminently theatrical ways, so it’s no surprise that they have lent themselves to adaptation on stage and on screen.

The earliest [Baron Munchausen film] that is still viewed today [is] Georges Méliès’ Baron Munchausen’s Dream [made in 1911]. In fact the film is a titular adaptation only, narratively owing far more to Edwin S. Porter’s The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906), which in turn is adapted from Winsor McCay’s turn-of-the-century comic strip, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. This palimpsest of cultural detritus with a topping, or titling, of Munchausen is typical of a number of the adaptations. Indeed, this is one reason why it is beneficial to view the films chronologically; as much as the Munchausen films are bound to their time and place of origin they are also self-propagating and reflexive to earlier versions.

Méliès’ Baron Munchausen’s Dream

This quoted excerpt comes from the admirably comprehensive, and fairly concise, overview provide at: Well worth a click-through.

For the original Raspe text, accompanied by some fantastic illustrations, you can go here to read it online:

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Young people of a certain age might remember the images of Verne and Méliès better in the music video for “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins, c. 1997. Heavily influenced, you could say. -DL

Oh, and for those deeply invested, or just curious, you can find an interesting set of observations on the connections and lineage amongst these various strands at this website right here, just by clicking through. Cartoons, animation, art, and more.


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