October 9, 2009 — The University of Virginia will host the Caribbean Theater Company Siyaj of Guadeloupe Oct. 18 through 20 for a series of workshops and two free public performances of "Comme deux frères (Like Two Brothers)," a play by acclaimed Guadeloupean author Maryse Condé.
The endeavor is an interdisciplinary project with the departments of French, drama and music.
"The visit is an opportunity for students to get in contact with Caribbean culture," said French professor Stéphanie Bérard, an expert on the theater of the Antilles.
"Director José Exélis is from Martinique, actor Ruddy Sylaire from Haiti and Siyaj company artistic director and actor Gilbert Laumord from Guadeloupe — the three French-speaking islands. They are multitalented and provide a way for our students to connect to different aspects of the culture and the rich oral tradition of Caribbean theater."
On Oct. 18, Siyaj, with music professor Michelle Kisliuk, will conduct a workshop featuring music and dance traditions of bélè from Martinique and gwoka from Guadeloupe. The event, scheduled for 2:30 to 4 p.m. in Brooks Hall Commons, is co-sponsored by U.Va.'s McIntire Department of Music. The workshop is free and open to the pubic.
On Oct. 19, Sylaire, Laumord and Exélis will lead a reading and discussion in French of excerpts from "Comme deux frères" from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Maison Française, 1404 Jefferson Park Ave. The event is open to the public.
"Comme deux frères" will be presented Oct. 19 and 20, at 8 p.m. both days, at Live Arts, 23 East Water St. The productions are in French with English subtitles and will be followed by discussion in English. The play is free an open to the public. The Live Arts box office opens at 7:30 p.m.
"Comme deux frères," a tragic tale of self-denial and redemption, is set in a jail cell after a serious crime has been committed. The two characters, who grew up "like brothers," confront accusations, fears and contradictions as they plan how to present their case in court.
"It's an ambiguous relationship between them," Bérard said. "One has always been under the power of the other. In jail they confront each other and the relationship changes."
The play presents issues faced by those living in the Caribbean today — issues of violence and a marginalized society whose members are often willing to take chances to get what they want, even with the threat of going to prison, she said.
"But it goes beyond the Caribbean and deals with universal issues. Which one is going to take responsibility?," Bérard said.
Also during the residency, Laumord will conduct a drama workshop for MFA acting students in associate professor Kate Burke's class that will focus on "the organic performer" and the physical expression of the body; and Sylaire will conduct a workshop on African-American theater and connections to Caribbean theater with drama students in associate professor Theresa Davis' class.
The residency and performances are sponsored by the Page-Barbour Lecture Endowment; the U.Va. offices of the Vice Provost for the Arts, Diversity and Equity, and African-American Affairs; the Carter G. Woodson Institute; U.Va.'s departments of French, drama, music and English; the French Ministry of Culture; and the Guadeloupe Center for Cultural Affairs.