Molière in the role of Caesar in Corneille’s “The Death of Pompey,”
by Nicolas Mignard
If you’re a fan of je parle américain, you’ve probably noticed a recent decline in the frequency of my posts. That’s primarily because I’ve been so busy with what has to be my final semester of French language classes. Instead of writing for je parle américain, I’ve been summarizing French news articles, drafting letters to imaginary newspaper editors about the controversies of the day, outlining arguments for oral presentations, synthesizing multipage French documents into concise 100-word summaries without omitting anything essential … oh, and writing a play in French.
Yes. Believe it or not, I wrote a 50-something-page, 14-scene,
2-act play in French this semester!
I was a bit anxious at first about my ability to write a play — not to mention one in French — but I took up the challenge with gusto. After vacillating for a while on the premise, I finally fixed upon the story I wanted to tell. Michel reminded me that I’ve been intrigued for a long time by a certain story from Franco-American history that I wanted to one day transform into a children’s book. It’s the tale of the young son of a South Carolina planter who met the Marquis de Lafayette during his first stay on American soil in 1777 and who, some twenty years later, was involved in an attempt to liberate Lafayette from prison during the French Revolution. In my play, I used the most basic of historical facts from these two events as the departure point for a fictional work that seeks to explain this unexpected connection between a little boy from South Carolina and a famous French noble.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t take myself for a playwright. I’m no Eugene O’Neill … no Arthur Miller … no Molière … so I don’t expect any rave reviews for this thing. In fact, I think the play is a little heavy-handed with its message, a bit formulaic, and too quick to resolve itself at the end. And who knows what it’ll sound like after I translate it into English! But, it does represent two big firsts for me: my first play and my first piece of fiction written in French.
So, here’s what I’m thinking: Now that I’ve finished it, what if I published it here on je parle américain in periodic installments as I translated it? I could publish the translation alongside the original French. Would you be interested? Let me know what you think! Seriously … leave a comment below if you think you’d read this as a serial.
May 17 update: Here’s Act One, Scene 1.
© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved