When we think of the swashbuckling stories of “The Three Musketeers” and “Count of Monte Cristo,” we might conjure images of sword fights, palace intrigue, and the gorgeous French countryside. We might not immediately think of those stories as multi-racial, but that’s where Atlanta’s Théâtre du Rêve comes in.
Their new play, “Code Noir: Les Aventures du Premier Comte de Monte Cristo (Black Code: The Adventures of the First Count of Monte Cristo)” tells the story of Alex Dumas, a French General and heroic figure who rose to prominence during the French Revolution. Born of an aristocratic French father and an enslaved African mother in the colony of St. Domingue (present day Haiti), his exploits later became fodder for his son’s novels.
“He came to France as a teenager,” du Rêve founder and playwright Carolyn Cook said. “His father raised him as an aristocrat. He broke with his father and he became a solider, and very quickly after that, the revolution broke out, and he fought for liberty, equality and fraternity.”
“He holds to that steadfast. He doesn’t let his surroundings get to him,” said Thandiwe DeShazor, who plays Dumas. “He’s in prison, but he still manages to find strength to tell his story.”
The play is performed in both French and English with projected supertitles. Its title refers to the “black code,” a list of rules guiding the treatment of slaves in the colonies. Cook said she hopes that the story expands what audiences think of as French stories.
“French is from all over the world,” she says, “and the French language and the cultures of those [formerly colonized] areas fascinate me. I really want to explore those with this company, and this is a major dive into that.”