Students on a theater trip in Iceland.

French Studies and Modern Languages

New Plays from the Caribbean Edited by Stéphanie Bérard (with Frank Hentschker)

University Room: Judith Hermanson Ogilvie Grand Salon (C-102)
Wednesday, September 28, 2022 - 18:30 to 19:30

This unique anthology New Plays from the Caribbean represents a most significant and lasting part of the 2019 Caribbean Theater Project ACT (Actions Caribéennes Théâtrales)—co-organized by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in New York City, the theater company Siyaj from Guadeloupe, and Stéphanie Bérard. The project was inspired by a conversation S. Bérard had in 2017 with Frank Hentschker, the director of the Segal Center. She was asking how they could find a way to make Francophone Caribbean theatre accessible to audiences outside the insular perimeter and the French-speaking zone. They decided to stage—within two days—elaborate reading of six plays from well known and emergent Caribbean female and male theatre artists at the Martin E. Segal Theatre in December of 2019 in front of an American audience. The playwrights were able to hear for the first time their texts in English. They participated actively in artistic exchanges with New York directors and actors, took part in meaningful panels after each reading.

The book is composed of six plays from Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe written by Jean-René Lemoine, Guy Régis Jr, Gaël Octavia, Daniely Francisque, Luc Saint-Eloy, Magali Solignat, and Charlotte Boimare. Engaged in a creative and innovative mixing of styles and languages (French and Creole), these Caribbean playwrights present a politically engaged theatre while renewing dramatic forms, content, and aesthetics. They tell us the stories and histories of contemporary Caribbean people by exploring passion, desire, and the collective experience of trauma and loss after a natural disaster. They denounce social, racial, and gender violence by staging real-life dramas and leading crime investigation.

Two of these Caribbean playwrights, Gäel Octavia from Martinique and Luc Saint-Eloy from Guadeloupe, have accepted to join us for a round table at AUP to tell us about this American experience and what it means to have their plays translated into English and stage read in New York.  They will be interviewed by Stéphanie Bérard, Senior Lecturer in the Department of French Studies at AUP, who is the editor of the book and the curator of the project ACT.

Conversation in English and French.

Gaël Octavia was born in 1977 in Martinique, and is currently living in Paris. She is an interdisciplinary artist who writes, paints, and creates short films. Influenced by the Martinican environment where she grew up, she questions universal themes such as migration, class, race, and the place of women in society in her artistic works. She is the author of award-winning plays that were staged and/or read in France, the US, and the Caribbean.

Her play Family (Une vie familiale) tells the story of an ordinary dysfunctional family, where everyone struggles playing the social games they are expected to play.  The father hides his homosexuality from his family and tries to escape a stifling and suffocating family. The alcoholic stay-at-home mother is s jealous of the relationships her husband has with their children. The brother and sister sleep in the same room, in the same bed. The lies, secrets, and silences ultimately blow up the constraining social conventions they lived with before.

Luc Saint-Éloy was born in Djibouti in 1955. He trained as an actor and director in France. Since 1983, he has been the director of the Théâtre de l’Air Nouveau in Paris. Deeply engaged in the African-Caribbean arts in France, Saint-Eloy is also the head of the Centre Culturel pour la Promotion des Arts Afro-Caraïbes. He has directed over 20 performances in which he revisits the history of colonialism and slavery, combining theater, music, dance, and storytelling.

His play Street Sad (Trottoir chagrin) tells the story of Marlène who prostitutes herself on the streets of Paris. She does not care about anything and anyone. One evening, she comes back where her brother Jeannot was murdered a year before. She meets a mysterious man with whom she starts a conversation. She tells her story, her memories and enters into a dangerous game of seduction.