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Dramatic Reading: Ionesco's Rhinoceros

Dramatic reading & discussion of Ionesco's Rhinoceros at This House of Books, your community-owned, independent bookstore and tea shop in downtown Billings, Montana

Rhinoceros, by Eugene Ionesco. A dramatic reading at This House of Books, followed by a discussion of the play and its relevance for today. There will only be one performance on January 26, 2019 from 3–5 pm.

Yellowstone Repertory Theatre is providing the cast and direction. Craig Huisenga, Artistic Director for YRT, will direct the reading. This will be the first formal collaboration between This House of Books and Yellowstone Repertory Theatre.

Although Rhinoceros is taught in theatre programs around the world, it is not often performed. One can see why: it is a complex play to stage, having a large cast and demanding stage requirements. We do not plan to fully stage the play, but rather to present a well-rehearsed dramatic reading featuring a cast made up of professional and serious amateur actors.

About the Play

One of the greatest works of surrealist theatre and breathtakingly powerful, Ionesco's Rhinoceros deals with the author's experience in Europe just before the outbreak of World War II. At that time, Ionesco saw people around him transform from normal, thinking human beings into intolerant, unthinking political fanatics. In the metaphor of the play, they become less human and more thick-skinned, like a rhinoceros. In the play, Ionesco presents his horror as he watched nearly everyone around him becoming affected. He felt increasingly isolated until he realized everyone he knew had succumbed.

In the play, Ionesco takes particular aim at intellectual leaders who applied logic stripped of humanity, looking for ways to get along with extremists on both the left and the right. While Rhinoceros reveals a great deal about people’s seduction by fascism, Ionesco equally takes to task those who embraced Stalinism on the grounds that the Soviet Union was progressive.

We believe that Rhinoceros is highly relevant today and we expect it to stimulate some serious discussion about the state of our current political climate, philosophy, and ethics. Our plan is to follow the reading with a discussion. It seems that it is a good time to bring the play forward again in a public performance and discussion.

Age restrictions?

Although teens may be interested in this production, children will be unlikely to enjoy the play. We advise that the play is intense and may be frightening to young children.


This event is made possible through the generosity of David Dietrich.

Event Date: 
Saturday, January 26, 2019 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm
This House of Books
224 North Broadway
Billings, MT 59101-1935