The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center presented New Plays from the Caribbean livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network on Tuesday 2 May 2023 at 9:30 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 11:30 a.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 12:30 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).
Join us for a conversation celebrating the unique anthology and latest Segal Center Publication, New Plays from the Caribbean, a most significant and lasting part of the 2019 Caribbean Theater Project ACT (Actions Caribéennes Théâtrales)—initiated and co-organized by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in New York City, the theatre company SIYAJ from Guadeloupe, and Stéphanie Bérard.
The project was inspired by a conversation Stéphanie 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—an 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. It was the first play-reading festival with French-speaking playwrights from different Caribbean nations in the history of theatre and the last live Segal Center event before the time of COVID-19.
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.
Daniely Francisque: Born in Martinique, Daniely Francisque grew up in the suburbs of Paris. After studying languages and cultural management, she decided to turn to the arts and trained as an actress, singer, and dancer. She appeared on stage (in plays by Molière, Beckett, José Pliya, Carole Fréchette, Guy Régis Jr.) and on screen (cinema and TV) in about sixty theatre and dance productions in France and the Caribbean. After returning to Martinique, she cofounded the theatre company TRACK in 2010 with Patrice Le Namouric and creates productions with strong physical and emotional impact, questioning femininity, violence, and memory in post-colonial societies, in a theatre inspired by magic realism. She has written four plays, and her plays Cyclones (Hurricanes) and Ladjables (She-Devil) have been translated into English. She will present a new work at the 77th edition of the Avignon Festival in July 2023, in the program Vive le sujet !
Synopsis of Ladjablès (Wild Woman): During a hot night of Carnival, a heartless and shameless seducer becomes inflamed by a bewitching dancer who stirs his desire up while denying herself to him. The masked woman leads the man into a vertiginous mating dance. Intoxicated by his libertine desire, he will do everything to conquer her without realizing that the predator is slowly becoming the prey.
Gaël Octavia: Born in 1977 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and currently living in Paris, Gaël Octavia is a multifaceted artist who writes, paints, and makes short movies. Influenced by the Martinican society where she grew up, she questions in her artistic work universal contemporary themes such as migration, social exclusion, identity, and women’s conditions. She is the author of five plays that have had staged readings in France, the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean, and has received numerous awards, among them the prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste in 2017 for her first novel La fin de Mame Baby.
Synopsis of Une vie familiale (Family): A father who hides his homosexuality and escapes a stifling and confined family. An alcoholic stay-at-home mother who is waiting for her husband and jealous of the relationships he has with their children. A brother and a sister who sleep in the same room, in the same bed. In this banal, dysfunctional family, where everyone has a hard time to play the social game, all the lies, subterfuge, and silences end up smashing the too-small frame of conventions.
Charlotte Boimare: Born in Metropolitan France, Charlotte Boimare was trained as an actress in Paris and worked with Dario Fo and Franca Rame, Jean-Luc Moreau, Christophe Botti, and Michel Laliberté. She has also played in short films and TV series. Because she loves telling stories, she started to write plays with Magali Solignat.
Magali Solignat: Born in Metropolitan France, Magali Solignat lives in the south of France where she is an actress, is a director of clown shows, and gives theatre workshops in secondary schools. Trained in acting in Paris, she worked in Guadeloupe for many years and has worked in cinema with Peter Watkins and in theatre with José Pliya and Jacques Martial.
Charlotte Boimare and Magali Solignat have co-written three plays: Touche moi, Maïwen 16 ans et demi, and Le jour où mon père m’a tué, which was staged read at the Avignon Festival in July 2022.
Synopsis of Le jour où mon père m’a tué (The Day My Father Killed Me): Blackbird is a play based on a true story: a singer murdered his own son a few years ago in Guadeloupe. Conceived as a documentary theatre (docudrama), the play lets us hear multiple voices that offer a polyphonic narrative account of the drama. Gossips, police reports, and SMS mix up to investigate how this murder happened while questioning violence in today’s Caribbean society, family, and raising educational issues.
Luc Saint-Éloy: Dramatist, director, and actor Luc Saint-Éloy is the director of the Théâtre de l’Air Nouveau, a theatre company founded in 1983 in Paris. Born in Djibouti, he was trained in France as an actor and has been very engaged in the promotion and defense of Afro-Caribbean arts as the head of the Centre culturel pour la promotion des arts afro-Caraïbes founded in 1998 in Paris. He has directed about twenty performances linking theatre, music, dance, storytelling, and revisiting the history of colonialism and slavery. His latest play L’impossible procès was performed in 2018 in the Festival culturel de la Martinique, in the National theatre L’Artchipel in Guadeloupe, and in Paris, and was selected by the Festival Cap Excellence in Guadeloupe and the Festival de Limoges in 2020.
Synopsis of Trottoir chagrin (Street Sad): Marlène 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.
Guy Régis Jr.: Born in Haiti, Guy Régis Jr. is a writer (dramatist, novelist, poet), director, actor, videomaker, and translator of Camus and Proust in Creole. In 2001 he founded the company NOUS Théâtre (WE Theatre), which promotes a political theatre and experimental corporal techniques. His plays have been staged in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and South America. After directing the section of theatre studies in the National School of the Arts in Port-au-Prince, he is now the director of the Festival Quatre Chemins, actively engaged in the development of performing arts in Haiti.
Synopsis of De toute la terre le grand effarement (And the Whole Earth Quakes): Two women, two survivors of a catastrophe, stand on a hill overlooking a destroyed city. The Youngest and the Oldest look at the desolated spectacle and hear the lamentations, prayers, and songs of the survivors staring down. The two women on the contrary look up in the sky and count the shooting stars, talking continuously to keep awake and fill up the void.
Elvia Gutiérrez: Elvia Gutiérrez (Mexico/China/France) created the SIYAJ company in 2002 together with the actor, author, and director Gilbert Laumord. As the co-director and producer, Elvia works tirelessly towards the dissemination of Guadeloupe culture. She is contributing towards fostering Caribbean international influence through workshops, productions, international tours, research, and training in the field of theatre and performance, focusing on Cuba, Haiti, the United States, and South Korea. Elvia organized artistic exchange between Paris and Tokyo with Master Izumi’s School of Kyōgen and she was the production manager at the French Connection Project Métissage, working in France, Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico, and became the executive producer of the project for French/German cultural TV channel Arte. She was a co-producer for the Off Street Theater Company’s broadcast of the opera Carmen Opéra de rue, an artistic exchange between France, Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia. She collaborated with Casa de las Américas in Cuba for a celebration of the work of the legendary Guadeloupean writer and giant of literature Maryse Condé. Elvia was instrumental in creating the unique anthology New Plays from the Caribbean, which 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, Stéphanie Bérard (France), and her theatre company SIYAJ.
Stéphanie Bérard: Stéphanie Bérard holds a joint PhD from the University of Minnesota and the Université de Provence. A specialist of Caribbean and African theatre, she has taught in the United States, Canada, and France. Her research is situated at the crossroads of postcolonial and theatre studies and explores the history of francophone drama, linguistics (Creole and French), oral tradition, and the integration of rituals on stage. She is the author of Théâtres des Antilles : traditions et scènes contemporaines (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2009) and Le Théâtre-Monde de José Pliya (Paris, Honoré Champion, 2015), and she co-edited Emergences Caraïbes : une création théâtrale archipélique in Africultures (2010). She received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for her research project on Haitian theatre and a European Marie Curie fellowship for the Francophone African and Caribbean Theaters (FACT) project. With Elvia Gutiérrez and Frank Hentschker, she co-curated the ACT project (Actions Caribéennes Théâtrales) in New York in 2019 to promote francophone Caribbean plays in English translation. She co-edited the collection New Plays from the Caribbean with Frank Hentschker (Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications, 2022).