Franco-Americans in Contemporary Theatre

Franco-Americans in Contemporary
By Garrett Rollins
Theatre As a Space
 For this project, I observed
theatre as a psychological
 Theatre is a multi-faceted art
 A play can exist as a social
commentary of our society,
an artist’s perception of
society, or both
Franco-American Theatre
 Gregoire Chabot is a
playwright from Waterville,
 Chabot’s plays deal with
generational division,
“cultural schizophrenia”, the
problems of preserving the
past and rejecting anything
Jacques Cartier Discovers America
 First Franco-American play
by Chabot.
 Written in 1976 for an
evening of Franco-American
entertainment hosted by the
National Materials
Development Center for
French and Portuguese.
 The play expressed the need
for Franco’s of Gregoire’s
generation to create a new
 Barman (Joseph), a FrancoAmerican in his early fifties.
 Josephine, Joseph’s wife,
also in her early fifties.
 Ti-Jean Cote, a mill worker
in his mid thirties.
 Jacques Cartier, a
Francophone phantasm.
 Leo, Josephine’s brother, in
his late forties.
 It is the end of another work day in a small Franco-American
 Joseph the Barman and his wife Josephine gossip with mill
worker Ti-Jean who has just finished his shift.
 As the three of them gripe about work, family, and small town
life, the ghost of Jacques Cartier enters, sent down from “up
 Unconcerned that they’re talking with the spirit of a long
deceased historical figure, the three strike up conversation
with Jacques as he discovered that this ‘New France’ is not as
he left it.
Thematic Implications
Cultural Schizophrenia: Ti-Jean tells
Jacques that he is two different people.
A French speaker who doesn’t speak
‘real French’ and an English speaker
who ‘talks funny’.
Generational and Economic Division:
Ti-Jean puts down Leo and
Josephine’s Franco-American
organizations, and explains there
won’t be any Franco’s left anyways.
Preservation of the Past: Ti-Jean
discusses the history of the
Revolutionary War, and explains that
French people in what is now Canada
had to join English troupes against
their own people who were allies of
the Revolution. (Modern Francos
seem to forget this.)
No Trump
 The play was first performed
in 1981.
 The story focuses on an
older generation of FrancoAmericans, most likely
Gregoire’s parents’
 The play takes place in the
kitchen and living room of a
Franco-American home of
the 80’s or 90’s.
 The action is set during the
two days before
Thanksgiving, and on the
day itself.
 Gerard, middle-class,
Franco-American, 64 years
 Juliette, Gerard’s wife, also
64 years old.
 Louis, Juliette and Gerard’s
brother-in-law, 69 years old.
 Hilda, Juliette’s sister, 70
years old.
 The Television, hypnotic
Anglophone presence.
 Gerard and Juliette are Franco-Americans of an older generation,
exhausted even in their retirement, after a lifetime of hard work just
to make ends meat.
 The story follows the couple as they prepare for the Thanksgiving
holiday, and find out one by one that their sons and their respective
families will not be coming to dinner.
 Juliette’s sister, Hilda, and her husband Louis are the couple’s only
company. Their weekly card nights provide little entertainment,
although they do cater to Gerard’s drinking problem.
 With various outrageous outbursts from the Television further
reminding them of their separation from the world outside, the
absence of their children, and reminders of the past bring up painful
memories and old wounds between the two of them.
Thematic Implications
A Hard Day’s Work: Both Juliette
and Gerard give their own
recollections of their working
lives, regretting the necessity to
work and spend such little time
with their sons.
Religion: Gerard nearly drinks
himself to a heart attack and begs
God to tell him why he is
constantly being punished. What
did he do to deserve this?
Generational Division: Gerard
believes that he and his sons will
never have a real conversation
because of the educational gap
that separates them.
In Closing…
“In the years to come—after we Franco-Americans forgive
him—we will thank Greg Chabot for these plays—for his
gift of love, faith, and courage.”
-Jim Bishop, author of Mother Tongue

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