In DONOGOO by Jules Romains, ambition and imagination collude to create fact out of fraud. The play tells the story of Lamendin, a desperate man, and Le Trouhadec, a professor of geography who longs for election to the Academy of Sciences. Together they unwittingly set in motion a stock market swindle of global proportions. Investors, pioneers and prospectors alike are driven to seek their fortune in Donogoo—a place that doesn’t exist.

DONOGOO opened in Paris in October of 1930 and was so successful it saved the struggling Théâtre Pigalle from ruin. Yet, the play remained all but unknown in the English-speaking world; having been performed only once in this country, in 1961 at the Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York, directed by Adrian Hall. Fifty-three years later, Mint Theater gave the play its first American revival in a “smart”1new translation by director Gus Kaikkonen.

Our production of DONOGOO garnered significant praise for both the play and the production. “DONOGOO is an insanely funny caricature of the creation of human delusion,”2 hailed TheaterMania. “The script’s echoes of recent financial crises are resonant and chilling,”3 echoed The New York Times of Romains’ prescient satire. “One of the best and most inventive uses of projections as scenery that I’ve ever seen,”4 wrote CurtainUp. “It’s as if this play has been waiting for modern technology to do it justice. What’s more, the staging ratchets up the comedy and comes close to stealing the show.”4

Romains was born Louis-Henri-Jean Farigoule on August 26, 1885 in the village of Saint-Julien Chapteuil.  He spent most of his childhood in Paris, where his father was a teacher.  In 1902, he also published his first poem, “Le Chef-d’oeuvre” (“The Masterpiece”) in La Revue jeune.  He published under the pen name he would use the rest of his life—Jules Romains—so chosen because it was easy to pronounce, memorable, and expressed his love of Rome.

Romains continued to write and publish poetry, but he also furthered his education.  After graduation, he taught philosophy full-time while continuing to write poems and prose.  His first volume of poems, La vie unanime, published in 1908, outlined his new philosophy of Unanimism, which he discovered while wandering the streets of Paris.  In Unanimism, Romains “had an intuition of the interconnectedness of all people, that groups possess a sort of collective soul, generated by disparate individuals who make up the group,” according to biographer Susan McCready.  Unanimism influenced a generation of avant-garde thinkers and artists.

The precepts of Unanimism also inspired Romains’ own work as a playwright.  In his first play, the verse drama L’Armée dans la ville, a town temporarily resists invasion through collective effort.  Produced at the Théatre de l’Odéon in 1911, L’Armée received critical praise but was a box office failure. It would be ten years before Romains would attempt playwriting again.  His first box office hit came in March 1923 with Monsieur Le Trouhadec saisi par la débauche, about a naïve yet cunning professor.  It was directed by visionary actor/director/designer Louis Jouvet.  (The character of Professor Le Trouhadec is central to the story of Donogoo.)

Romains surpassed the success of Trouhadec with another comedy the same year, Knock, ou Le Triomphe de la médicine (Dr. Knock, or the Triumph of Medicine).  Jouvet, who directed and starred in Knock, did not expect this dark comedy of a maniacal doctor to be a hit, but the play was a sensation.  Dr. Knock was revived six times between 1924 and 1933, and seven more times between 1935 and 1949.  In 2009 Mint produced DR. KNOCK, also translated and directed by Gus Kaikkonen.

By Maya Cantu



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Jeanine Plottel is the former chair of the Hunter Department of Romance Languages, and the author of many articles and books in both French and English. The French government has decorated her twice for her contributions to French Language, Literature and Culture. She presently serves on several boards, including Barnard College, where she is a trustee, the Society for French American Cultural Exchange (FACE), the Columbia University Maison Française, and the NYU Institute of French Studies. She traces her intellectual genealogy to Jules Romains: her Ph. D. thesis advisor, friend, and mentor, Jean Hytier, was one of Jules Romains’s students. She will discuss the playwright’s unique position in French literary history.

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In DONOGOO, Jules Romains skillfully satirizes the patriotism and pioneering spirit that drove French imperialism. Lise Schreier will discuss the play in the context of French colonial literature. Professor Schreier teaches nineteenth-century French literature and twentieth-century French and Francophone literature at Fordham University. Her research interests include colonial and postcolonial literature, her publications focus on travel writing, constructions of national and artistic identities, and the connections between imperialism and early feminism. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled “The Playthings of Empire: Exoticized Children and the Politics of French Femininity, 1780-1895.”

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Gus Kaikkonen is an award-winning playwright, actor and director. For eighteen years has been the Artistic Director of New Hampshire’s Peterborough Players. Gus is a frequent collaborator at the Mint, having most recently directed N.C. Hunter’s A PICTURE OF AUTUMN. In 2010, Gus directed his own translation of Jules Romains’ DR. KNOCK for the Mint. Gus’s plays, translations and adaptations have been produced Off Broadway at the Mint, the Pearl Theatre Company, New York Musical Theatre Festival, Playwrights Horizons, the Production Company; in England at the New End Theatre and the Theatre Museum in London, and the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.