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On directing French actors, but not speaking French.

"Why the fuck didn't I learn French?" I downloaded Duolingo and practiced it aloud to myself in my living room, but I didn't really give it the old college try. I probably should have done that, being in grad school and all, but lessons would have helped...

I've been in Saint E'Tienne for four days now, and think I'm finally starting to get over the jet lag (which is a good thing, since I have to run eight hour rehearsals every day with a group of actors who don't really speak English very well).

For the first few days, Aleshea (the playwright I travelled with) and I were focused mainly on the translation of the text itself. We sat with Severin Margeres (a wonderful, white-haired woman who filled us in on all the Parisian theater drama happening with a famous actress who was working on another show with her) and the cast going through the specifics of the text translation--which was the appropriate exclamation, how to translate this 'shit' or that 'putain.'

Then she left, and we were alone. With nine actors. And very little French between the two of us. It's lucky for me that two of the French actors are fluent English and have been able to translate, but the process of staging the workshop of Aleshea's play still hasn't been easy.

Our original plan included a mix of English and French, using a bilingual approach to bridge a language gap. This isn't going to work, as the majority of the ensemble is very uncomfortable speaking in English.

Four days in and things are shifting, our expectations of what's possible and the possibility of a polished piece emerging along with them. Just remember these questions: What is the story we want to tell? and, Where does this question live in your body? and also, Be bold.

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