The Dictator (Part 2)

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The Dictator (Part 2)[1]
Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Absurd Monologue, Narrative Monologue, 59 minutes
Preceded by: The Dictator (Part 1)
Followed by: The Dictator (Part 3)

Now many people condemn me for rocketing the cities of our enemy...

The Dictator (Part 2) is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1991.


The dictator defends bombing his enemies' cities, explains why soldiers are more admirable than civilians, why it's better to target civilians.

4:10: Joe tells of a devastating war that generations of leaders continue despite the enormous cost. Attackers catapult flaming bodies of soldiers into the city, other desperate measures.

9:20: Because the siege lasts longer than 100 years, the government divided the city into districts with separate characters: Via del Sol, Sui Borg(?), Dreamland, Emerald Isle, Third Quarter, and Bohemia, as a substitute for travel.

19:20: Joe tells of a lion tamer in the circus. They are dull and unpopular; the circus thinks of replacing him with chess-playing bears. He fights with his assistant, his wife. A lion bites off his head at the finale of the act one day. Rumors were that the wife hadn't fed them. She takes over the act, wears provocative outfits, makes the act more exciting, makes the circus, close to failure, a success. Children and animals disappear; rumor had it she's feeding them to the lions.

Joe becomes her assistant, becomes obsessed with her, loses interest in Magda, envies the lions, eats some of their raw meat, walks on all fours. Joe finds her making love to the dominant lion. She ends up dead after a night of this. Joe kills the lion and leaves the circus.

30:50: The dictator is distraught at the failure of the war.

32:40: Ravenous, he eats what's growing in the dirt on his body.

33:30: Joe remembers when the war started. The generals had promised the war would end in 2 weeks, so the people celebrated, eating up their stores of food, leading to starvation and cannibalism later.

33:50: The leader of the country, General Ibrahim, is an insomniac, has intense dreams in his short bouts of sleep. A team of oracles, prophets, and dream interpreters try to interpret them. They are so many and of so many different opinions they can't agree on an important dream: he's a fish hit by a bolt of lightning, ends up suffocating on the shore, then turns into a cart horse carrying 2 giant, glowing, pulsing gourds; he foams at the mouth.

39:00: The people become deranged with despair and celebrate orgiastically, destructively.

41:40: A peace movement protests the war.

42:20: The cemeteries are full, so people are buried everywhere.

43:00: The government encourages child-bearing.

44:20: In the 112th year the enemy lifts the siege, leaves a large wooden horse. People celebrate. Joe remembers the Trojan horse, warns the generals. They set the horse on fire, which starts a huge fire. The horse had food and other supplies, not soldiers.

46:40: After a brief period of relief people are depressed at the loss of meaning the war had provided.

48:10: Joe has a number of minor jobs in the government: plumber's helper, sprocket grinder, resiliency inspector... He sabotages every task assigned to him. He kills his supervisors. For a finale he blows up parliament.

52:10: Joe repeats, with slight variations, in different voices, 'Help me unravel this knot and find my way back to the town where I first saw you, where all this started, this thirst'.

Legacy Synopsis

Why not attack civilians, siege on a city, circus lion tamer story, the dictator regrets and plucks food from his body, the start of war with an insomniac general and dream interpreters, the dictator's job history and assassination of government officials, "help me unravel this knot and find my way back to the town where I first saw you, where all this started, this thirst"


Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Performed by Joe Frank, and created in collaboration with Arthur Miller and David Rapkin. Mixed by Theo Mondle. War bed created by Jerry Summers. Special thanks to Sheila Bjornlie and Ariana Morgenstern."