Never mind the canceled fireworks. Rhetorical bombs will be bursting in air at the Grant Park Music Festival’s Independence celebration on July 3. Remy Bumppo Theatre Company has announced that it’s organizing “over 100 theater and cultural leaders” to read Thomas Jefferson’s incendiary manifesto, the Declaration of Independence, as part of the festivities.
In a statement, Remy Bumppo’s new artistic director, Timothy Douglas, says, “The document is written in a wonderful language art, which is now almost defunct, called the art of rhetoric. . . . As theatre practitioners we inherit this language art. What you see in plays is what happens when the communication of a point of view fails or succeeds. When it succeeds you get love, joy and bliss, and when it fails you get tyranny and slaughter.”
The bliss vs. slaughter trope doesn’t really work, since the highly successful Declaration brought on years of slaughter before yielding any bliss. But I like Douglas’s faith in the power of language.
And his ambition, too. He’ll have to hustle to get his scores of Chicago luminaries for the event. The initial list of readers contains only eight names. Still, that list is led by Deanna Dunagan, best known as the take-no-prisoners mama in Steppenwolf Theatre’s original production of August: Osage County. If she can’t get some pyrotechnics going, nobody can.
The celebration starts 5:30 PM at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph. It’s free, like the United States, and there’s an open rehearsal June 29, 3-5:30 PM.