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Bilingual play deals with religion True Sask. story inspired production BY CAM FULLER, STARPHOENIX ARTS & LIFE EDITOR MARCH 4, 2011 Religion, language and the treatment of women collide in La Maculée, a play inspired by a true Saskatchewan story. Saskatoon playwright Madeleine Blais-Dahlem remembers her mother mentioning a homesteading couple in the Battlefords area whose marriage ended when the husband renounced his Catholic faith and his French language. "With his decision, he left her cut off from her community," Blais-Dahlem said this week. "It was actually a terrible scandal at that time." Too ashamed to continue going to her own church, every spring the woman resorted to checking herself into a mental institution, the Saskatchewan Hospital, to fulfill her Easter obligation to take confession. "What struck me was that this woman must have been desperate," said Blais-Dahlem. The play is not a documentary, however. Blais-Dahlem fictionalized it to bring out the themes of religion and culture. Although it's set in the 1920s, she kept in mind more recent events. For instance, she was shaken with the news of the first female suicide bomber. "I said to myself, religion is still killing women." She was also conscious of the plight of some immigrant women who are isolated at home even as their children and husbands are integrated into their new surroundings. In the play, the husband becomes a Protestant tent revivalist. Language and religion are, for him, sources of power. In the play, he says "God speaks English." The play's French title is a play on words. La Maculée is the opposite of the English word immaculate, which refers to the Virgin Mary, whom the woman in the play is fixated upon. There being no English word 'unimmaculate,' the English title is sTain. The capital T is a reference to the crucifix. "It's got two of the funniest scenes I've ever written and it's got two of the most heartbreaking scenes I've ever written," said Blais-Dahlem. The play is bilingual, a natural thing for Blais-Dahlem. She grew up in a French community, but can't remember a time when she didn't speak both French and English. Language in the play is divided by religion -French speakers are Catholic, English are Protestant. Translations of both are projected in surtitles on a screen, so the play can be understood by everyone. La Troupe du Jour brought in Marie-Ève Gagnon from Quebec to direct. She's in high demand at home and the cast loves her, said Blais-Dahlem. "She's wonderful. She mentored me on this for the past three years. It's a play that needs to be directed by a woman because the issues are very subtle." Starring in the play are Gilles Poulin-Denis, Marie-Claire Marcotte, Ian C. Nelson, Bruce McKay and Alicia Johnston. firstname.lastname@example.org © Copyright (c) The Star Phoenix
New play lets everyone in BY STEPHANIE MCKAY, THE STARPHOENIX MARCH 7, 2011 The invention of theatre surtitles is certainly a blessing. Thanks to the translation of dialogue for stage shows, no one, French- or English-speaking, has to miss La Troupe du Jour's great new religion-themed play La Maculée (sTain). Directed by Marie-Eve Gagnon, La Maculée takes place in the late 1920s in Saskatchewan. Quebec transplant Françoise (Marie-Claire Marcotte) is devastated when her unsuccessful farmer husband, Bernard (Gilles PoulinDenis), chooses a new career as a Protestant revivalist after the magnetic Real Preacher Man (Bruce McKay) comes to call. She clings to her strong Catholic faith and Francophone roots as she becomes increasingly isolated in the farming community. To cope with the loneliness, Françoise invents visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, leading her husband to commit her, on three separate occasions, to a psychiatric hospital. There, her doctor Maurice Johnson (Ian C. Nelson), treats her more like a science experiment than a person. La Maculée is a new work by Madeleine Blais-Dahlem. But the play doesn't really feel like a new work, in a good way. It feels lived in and natural. This is due in big part to the cast. Marcotte's performance as Françoise is gorgeous. Enveloped by loneliness and dancing somewhere between clarity and insanity, Marcotte makes the story of this Prairie woman so heartbreaking, yet relatable. Alicia Johnston adds a uniquely feminine strength to her role as Françoise's nurse at the hospital, Louise. It is appropriate, given the subject matter of the play, that the strongest performances of the night come from women. Marcotte and Johnston have immediate chemistry and create a powerful friendship on stage. McKay is a great addition to the cast as Real Preacher Man. He immediately charms the farming couple with various ointments and creams, but the real message he's selling is pure evangelism. McKay is both lovable and sleazy in his portrayal and adds some much-needed comic relief to La Maculée. The whole thing takes place on a clever, yet simple, set. The all-white stage utilizes levels and lighting to transform into different times and places. The use of language, both French and English, makes the play that much stronger, especially as Françoise fights to keep her cultural and religious identity. One of the highlights of the play is a scene in which Real Preacher Man tries to teach Bernard the correct pronunciation of English words for his new role in the revivals. It is both funny as he fumbles to say 'harsh' and sad as Françoise gets left further and further behind. La Maculée (sTain) runs at The Refinery Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. email@example.com © Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix!
Published on Mar 28, 2011
Published on Mar 28, 2011
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