Charlie Chaplin’s most well-known on-screen character was the “Tramp,” a bumbling man whose humor and playfulness guided audiences through some of the darkest periods of the early 20th century. After the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, renowned journalist and film critic James Agee urged Chaplin to bring back the Tramp. He wrote a screenplay and sent it to Chaplin, insisting that the Tramp’s humor and grace were essential to help the world heal from this tragedy. Chaplin declined, and the play faded mostly into oblivion.
A new one-man play on stage at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham brings the story back to life. “The Tramp’s New World” mixes Agee’s screenplay with projections, silent film, and physical comedy to tell the story of how the “Tramp” makes his way as the lone survivor of a super-atomic blast. The show is on stage through Saturday, Dec. 19. Host Frank Stasio talks to creator and performer Rob Jansen.