Originally created 12/19/97

C-SPAN to visit Imperial



Keys to democracy are hidden in Augusta's Imperial Theatre, and C-SPAN intends to ferret them out.

On Jan. 13, the theater will serve as a backdrop to a live discussion of democracy and public entertainment during a stop on the political news channel's nine-month tour retracing the journeys of Alexis de Tocqueville, author of the Democracy in America, one of the most celebrated books of the 1800s.

A producer for the series, In Search of Tocqueville's Democracy in America, was in Augusta Thursday, scouting locations for the show and discussing the history of theater with Imperial executive director Norman Easterbrook. Augusta will be the 51st stop on a 55-city tour tracing the path Tocqueville took when the 25-year-old Frenchman came to America in 1831-1832.

"While we're here, we'll be looking at theater in a democratic nation vs. theater in an aristocratic nation -- and government has a lot of implications for theater," producer Maura Pierce said. "We're hoping to show people what the theater means historically."

Ideas for discussion include the difference in plays produced for a patron -- a hallmark of theater in an aristocracy -- and plays produced for a wider audience and funded by numerous people and groups, Mr. Easterbrook said.

In the second volume of his treatise on democracy, Tocqueville observed that theater under aristocracy was more refined and was intended to stimulate the mind, while theater under democracy was more immediate, served as entertainment and targeted the emotions.

"We were a young country then, and now, we're a more mature country, and we're asking `Are these things still valid?' " Ms. Pierce said. "We're trying to get people to ask if the things Tocqueville said are still relevant."

The half-hour Augusta show will air live at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 13 and will be rebroadcast at 7:30 p.m.

Other topics in Tocqueville's work, quoted by leaders and politicians from President Bill Clinton to Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., include religion, politics, the press and the changing role of government. A different topic is discussed at each stop, Ms. Pierce said.