COURTESY LAURA MASONMaura Halloran and Damien Seperi appear in Cutting Ball Theater’s American premiere of “Communiqué No. 10

French playwrights in SF spotlight at Des Voix

Des Voix, an expanded festival of new French theater and cinema, promises to draw Francophiles downtown this month.

Three local arts organizations (Cutting Ball Theater, the Playwrights Foundation and Tides Theatre), in partnership with the Consul General of France in San Francisco, are collaborating for the event.

The first such festival was held here in 2012. This year’s program, Des Voix … Found In Translation, includes three main components.

Opening today is the American premiere of Samuel Gallet’s “Communiqué No. 10” at Cutting Ball Theater, translated by Cutting Ball artistic director Rob Melrose.

The festival also presents staged readings (two apiece) of three plays by contemporary French playwrights (whose work has never before been seen in the U.S.), selected from among 25 plays in French submitted to the Playwrights Foundation by La Maison Antoine Vitez in Paris.

Also, Tides Theatre artistic director Jennifer Welch has curated a program of new French films by Michel Gondry, Jerome Enrico, Justine Triet and the late Patrice Chereau.

In addition, a one-time “Bal Littéraire” mixes flash performance, club dancing and songs. The highlight of the ball is an audience-participation play, created in 48 hours by French and American playwrights Anthony Clarvoe, Leonore Confino, Prince Gomolvilas, Riad Gahmi, Liz Duffy Adams and Jon Bernson along with DJ Michael Falsetto-Mapp.

According to Amy Mueller, artistic director of the Playwrights Foundation, the two major topics found in the plays sent from La Maison, an organization of literary and theatrical translators, were the effect of new technology on the traditional family structure and the issue of European xenophobia and immigration.

Of the three plays selected, Leonore Confino’s “One Upon Another” (“Les Uns Sur Les Autres”) is a satire of a tech-driven and emotionally dysfunctional suburban family, and actor-writer Riad Gahmi’s comedy “Where and When We Died” (“Ou et Quand Nous Sommes Morts”) deals with anti-Arab racism in Europe. Filmmaker and screenwriter Christophe Honoré’s “Death of a Young Man” (“Un Jeune Se Tue”) involves love and ghosts.

All three plays have been translated into English for the festival.

In exchange, the San Francisco collaborators sent a batch of American plays to their Parisian counterpart; La Maison will present readings in Paris, in French translation, of plays by Adams, Marcus Gardley and Rajiv Joseph. All have had stellar productions here.

Other American playwrights’ organizations, in other states, have similar cultural exchanges. But, Mueller says, “We invented our own version for Des Voix.”


Des Voix … Found In Translation

Communique No. 10: Today-May 25 at EXIT on Taylor Street, 277 Taylor St., S.F., $10-$50

Bal Littéraire: 7 p.m. May 9 at French-American International School, 150 Oak St., S.F., $25

New French cinema: May 4, 17 and 25 at Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter St., S.F., $10

Staged readings: May 8-11, Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter St., S.F., $20-$25


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