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Beat the Devil! (Faust, the Whole Story)
by Glen Williamson

Production photo

Glen Williamson in a scene from Beat the Devil! (Faust, the Whole Story) | Robb Creese

Author: Glen Williamson

Description: An exhilarating romp through Goethe’s theatrical masterpiece about heaven, hell and a battle for the soul of a man searching for truth, satisfaction . . . and a Goddess.

Year Written/Copyrighted: 1999
Date Added: 1/21/2012
Content Advisory: NA
Keywords: Comedy · Death and the Afterlife · Drama · Folklore and Legends · Hell · Meta · Mythology · Religion and Spirituality · Shakespeare · Solo Play · Technology and the Internet
2 Acts, 90 Minutes
0 Females, 1 Male

NOTE: Beat the Devil! (Faust, the Whole Story) is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at rd@indietheaternow.com.

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From the Author:

I first read and experienced Goethe’s Faust in German in 1981 when I went as an exchange student to Dornach, Switzerland, to work as a stagehand on the full, uncut production. It has been a companion ever since. I originally developed this story version at the request of the New York Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in 1999 in honor of the 250th anniversary of Goethe’s birth. By retelling the essential plot (condensed from over 24 hours of playing time) in a free rendering in English, I hope to bring a fresh life—a kind of artistic road map, if you will—to Goethe’s great poetic drama. I have tried to include all the main action and, in one instance, I have even added the events of a scene that Goethe envisioned, but never wrote.

A Note from the Editor:

Beat the Devil! (Faust, the Whole Story) received the award for Best Adaptation at the 2011 United Solo Theatre Festival.

Casting/Production Comments:

Beat the Devil! has been performed in spaces ranging from intimate living rooms to Broadway-size stages and everything in between. Ideally there is plenty of performance space for the actor to move around a lot, but the staging can also be condensed.

The technical requirements are very simple. The actor rings a bell before beginning each of the four sections, ringing four times to begin the performance, then three, then two, then one, indicated by large asterisks in the script. He also drinks from a glass of water between each section.

An old-looking upright wooden chair or simple armchair, downstage left, becomes Faust's study and room. A stool or narrow table, behind the chair, holds the bell and the glass of water.  A tree stump, stool or piano bench, upstage right, becomes a rock in the garden, a throne in the Emperor’s palace, laboratory paraphernalia, and a mountain. (A variety of objects have been used for this, including a hay bale and a stage-scenery rock.)

No lighting changes are necessary; general wash of light over the whole stage area is fine. (Some red down right for Mephistopheles’ asides and other colors and effects can be used creatively in venues where this is possible, but it’s not necessary.)

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Original Production Information

Glen Williamson began telling the whole story of Goethe’s Faust (under the title The Tragedy of Mephistopheles) in 1999, at the request of the New York Branch of the Anthroposophical Society, in honor of the 250th anniversary of Goethe’s birth. This solo epic-storytelling performance has appeared throughout North America and Britain and in Europe. Glen continues to perform Beat the Devil!, touring widely, and is available to perform it in theaters, churches, schools and universities. Visit AnthroposTheater.com.

Excerpt from Beat the Devil! (Faust, the Whole Story)

Eventually Mephistopheles found his way into a deep, dark cave. In the depths of this darkness, he found a hideously ugly threefold monster, three sisters, old hags, who had never seen the light of day and who shared one eye and one tooth among them, which they passed back and forth in order to see or eat. Mephistopheles felt a certain kinship with them. When he told them that they were so beautiful he wondered why sculptors and artists had never depicted them, they were so flattered that he convinced them that, since they could share one eye and one tooth among them, couldn’t the three of them somehow condense themselves into two of the bodies and give the third one to him. And so they did. And they gave him the eye and the tooth. So now Mephistopheles had a classical form. It’s true he was a kind of a hermaphrodite because now he was a hideously ugly old woman, but now he could go about in the classical world. So – in order to try to somehow bring Faust and Helen together – he found his way to the palace of Helen and her husband, King Menelaus. In this palace, Mephistopheles took the place of the old housekeeper, who had been waiting for more than ten years for her master, King Menelaus, to return from the Trojan War with his wife and queen, Helen. And there Mephistopheles waited.

Meanwhile, Homunculus was floating around in his glass beaker, looking for a way to come into being.