Chat with Theatre Director Roxane Revon by Robin Gorman Newman
In support of my passion for theatre and desire to share with readers information about cool shows in NYC, I did an interview with Parisian director Roxane Revon. Ms. Revon will direct Eugene Ionesco’s classic play La Cantatrice Chauve / “The Bald Soprano” for a limited run at the 4th Street Theatre in the East Village, NYC. The play will be presented in the original French text with supertitles in English providing a unique cultural experience for New Yorkers and visitors around the globe.
Lauren Rayner Productions is set to produce the play in her fourth collaboration with director Revon. LRP produced Revon’s revival ofSartre’s Huis Clos / “No Exit” in WiredArts Fest 2013, also performed in the original French, which was streamed live to over 50,000 online viewers worldwide. This production will feature actors Telma Bernardo, Patrick Croze, Fedly Daniel, MorgOn Delamarre, Samantha Grassian, and Justine Thurman and lighting by Lauren Bremen.
ROXANE: When I arrived in New York City a few years ago, it became clear that the way I was practicing English in France was useless and often rather absurd, as you can see judging by the state of my English now! But something else was taught in those lessons… Something about the difficulty to present yourself with a few words, something about the absurdity of the social situations we encounter, something about the difficulty to truly express yourself. Ionesco met his iconic characters. Mr. and Mrs. Smith in an English language method book. In fact, the first title of the play was ‘L’Anglais sans peine’ (English without toil).
ROBIN: What is the play about?
ROXANE: Presented in the original French text with English supertitles, the play is an absurd conversation between six characters: two couples, a maid and a fireman, all appearing to be “English” while speaking French. The Smiths are a traditional couple from London who have invited another couple, the Martins, over for a visit. They are joined later by the Smith’s maid, Mary, and the local fire chief, who is also Mary’s lover. The two families engage in meaningless banter, telling stories and relating nonsensical poems. Nothing logical here, but in Ionesco’s masterpiece, we always find the situations wittier than they seem to be.
ROBIN: His work was considered quite breakthrough at the time. How so? Did he address particular themes?
ROXANE: It was a breakthrough because it’s an anti-play, as Ionesco described it. Every theatrical convention is suspended within the work. The language is not rational at all and illuminates a disturbing twist about our lives and how absurdly we communicate with each other (as family, as friends, as lovers…)
ROBIN: What can playwrights today learn from his works? Are any contemporary writers drawing influence from his work?
ROXANE: Today, many modern playwrights are still writing with Ionesco’s work in mind. For instance, German playwright Marius von Mayenburg uses absurdism as an opportunity to create some distance from everyday life and our way to worship beauty in “The Ugly One” recently produced Off-Broadway by Soho Rep and The Play Company. This type of writing is very similar to what Ionesco’s pieces are exploring: the script seems absurd and twisted, but allows audience members to question about their own lives and the irrationality of it all.
ROBIN: Of contemporary playwrights, both American and foreign, whose work do you personally admire and why?
ROXANE: I am fascinated by the work of American writer (and director), Young Jean Lee, because she tells stories with strength and in great detail, but also Amy Herzog who aims to create theatre that addresses important social issues of our time. In France, I really care for the work of director and comedian Jean-Luc Lagarce (I’m working on one of his pieces called “Music Hall” that will be performed in May here in NYC), and also Leonore Confino who wrote recently a play called “Building” that also uses absurdism as a way to describe the violence of human relationships at work. And of course, many, many other talented artists!
ROBIN: What do you hope the audience takes way from this production?
ROXANE: I hope they will think about their automatism, words and gestures that they are used to saying each and every day. I hope they more clearly understand the difficulty of speaking in a foreign language with a few words, expressions, and idioms that are usually meaningless. Finally, I hope they will (as Voltaire used to say) “continue to cultivate their garden”, their own words, their own thoughts, and cross a sound distance towards their inner concerns.
La Cantatrice Chauve / “The Bald Soprano” will run at the 4th Street Theatre (83 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003) on November 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15 at 8pm, November 9 & 16 at 3pm & 8pm, and November 10 & 17 at 3pm. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets, visit www.laurenrayner.com/tickets. For more information, visit www.laurenrayner.com/thebaldsoprano
NOTE: I had the opportunity to see the show, and it was a unique experience. I had never before seen a show spoken in French….the English translations were projected on a screen….and this was well done. I was also not overly familiar with the work of Ionesco, and it was a wonderful opportunity to experience the work of a world class playwright in the unique theatre of the absurd. The cast did a wonderful job, and it was a witty, clever and thought-provoking piece and presentation.