No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

Written By: Jean-Paul Sartre

Adapted By: C.R.K. Hildebrand

Production Dates: November 3rd - 19th, 2011

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"Theatrum Elysium's inaugural production—Jean-Paul Sartre’s timeless masterpiece No Exit, was a philosophical exploration into the nature of existence. No Exit exudes the creative power and intellectual rigor that sits at the core of Theatrum Elysium. In utilizing innovative staging and a tailor-made adaptation from the original French to awaken the visceral memories housed within each of us, we looked to lead by example, offering inspiring, innovative work that speaks to theatergoers from all walks of life.


In a world devoid of everything, three people arrive into nothing. Lost and confused, Garcin, Estelle, and Inez desperately search each other for a reprieve that will never come. Yet in truth, “Hell is other people,” as Garcin famously remarks, extolling the most basic reality of their internment. Locked in room, driven more and more mad by the others, each falls prey to the failings that defined their pasts as they search in vain for some sense of reason. But hell is devoid of reason, leading the three to a tortuous fate far beyond their worst nightmares. Set in a Dadaesque limbo, Theatrum Elysium’s No Exit invited audiences to travel across the river into a psychological perdition —challenging our perception of the afterlife, questioning the origin of our deepest fears, and ultimately, realizing the frail truths of the human soul."


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Program Notes



In 1944, Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit premiered in Nazi occupied Paris. Birthed into a world exploding at the crossroads of technology, industry, medicine and economics, No Exit brought to the dramatic arena a question as old as man – what is the nature of existence? In writing No Exit, Sartre sought to distill his landmark treatise Being and Nothingness into a vehicle for performance. Out of Sartre’s torrid time came a distinct existential philosophy – a reality devoid of god, stripped bare by the constant failings of “man,” with the only truth being the acceptance of our misery in nothingness.


In performance No Exit immerges beyond traditionally accepted dramatic guidelines (exposition, rising action, etc.). We are instead engaged in breathing life into philosophy - arguably one of the dustiest of all disciplines - and the air we breathe is that of Sartre’s. When we define a moment, it is with Sartre’s voice. Instead of embodying a narrative, our characters embrace the terrifying actuality that they only exist moment by moment. In this world each individual is driven by survival. Not survival in the physical sense of the word – there is no food and no water, nor is there any need as there is no physical body – but survival of the psyche. Each character must fight to discover the most primal needs of their conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. It is this struggle which perpetuates each moment forward.


No Exit offers each of us a gift – a starkly true mirror reflecting back our true self. In the end, Sartre’s greatest gift is self-realization. Through this work we are offered nothing more, and need nothing more, than ourselves. Ultimately, these questions of existence lead us to the absurd, a place where everything and nothing can be rationalized. The absurd is not an escape, but instead a revelation. Sartre’s contemporary, Albert Camus put it best, “The absurd is the first concept and the essential truth.” In the end, this truth is nothing more than the personal recognition of our penultimate failure as human beings.



Christopher R. K. Hildebrand