JE SUIS PETER. JE SUIS AMERICAIN
A TWO-ACT BIODRAMA
ANTHONY E. GALLO
This two-act biodramedy examines the 74- year, conflicted, triumphal, and daring life of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, designer of the District of Columbia as his genius is overshadowed by his complicated, volatile, and tenacious mien. If you love Washington you will love this play
His architectural design for the city stands in effect today, making Washington one of the world’s most beautiful capital city.. How did he manage to acquire the awe and appreciation of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson, only to lose their trust, confidence, and patience? Was he indeed L’Enfant Terribile? Or just Mr. Hard luck?
Born into the opulence of the French nobility, he yearned for the Revolution in America. Born the son of a prestigious portrait and battle scene artist i
n the employ of King Louis XV, developed an eye or battle and enveloped plans for an imperial capital city.. Pierre (who demanded to be called Peter) wanted to become part of the American revolution.
The play asks what made this foreigner tick with our founding fathers. Why did they prize him so much, well aware of his faults: self-indulgence, spend thriftiness? And he did not even get to design the Capitol and Whitehouse.
His plan for the new Republic, supposedly a democracy,was
imperial, and reflected his monarchical origins. Hamilton and Washington were well please with the design but Jefferson was not. And for one who fought for a Repulbican democracy, why was he at the center of and pride of y the Society of the Cincinnati, the closest thing to royalty in America.
He died in poverty, being a guest of the Digges family in what is today Ft. Washington, where he overlooked city but never did return to visit it. Was it the shame of being evicted from Rhodes Tavern and owing $300? And how about the suit from his personal partner for 8000 dollars which the architect lost
The town of Washington was a mess until the mid-nineteenth century. John Adams and other presidents totally overlook his design. The grand design impressed so many, but by 1820 very little had been effectuated
But the McMillan commission came in1909 and restored the value of his design.
When he was finally put to rest at Arlington Cemetery with President Taft in attendance, the French Ambassador made a mild understatement. Pierre L’1enfant yes, wasL'Enfantterribile. And a genius.
And ion the final scene a man called Peter gives a guided tour of the city of Washington which will be enjoyed by all.