Haitian playwrights and poets take center stage in New York City on March 31, 2010

The Dead Who Live Among Us: Contemporary Haitian Playwrights at the Segal Theatre Center

by Rick DesRochers

On Wednesday March 31, 2010 at the Segal Theatre Center, we witnessed a collective communion between audience and performer/poets; an invocation to turn the grief of death and devastation into the life of the theatre; a theatre that aspires and inspires to bring together the dead and the living with a vision of Haiti through a theatre of the dead who live among us. Death in this theatre is not the end but a continuous cycle that connects death with life, and poetry with the living stage.

The evening begins with an invocation of congas by Atibon and Zilibo followed by Jean-Dany Joachim’s mellifluous voice inviting us to create a theatre that will bring the haunted stage of Haiti back to life in this devastated country struggling to recover through theatre/poetry/song.

As the living are brought together by the dead; as a direct result of the earthquake in Haiti that precipitated Wednesday night’s event; as Michèle Voltaire Marcelin rendered the dead living with remembered moments of loss and survival (an elderly woman who, after remaining under a collapsed roof for three days declares to rescuers, “Je suis là! J’ai soif!” in a cry of defiance and desire for life) through song/poetry/movement that conjured images of the dead among the living in the aftermath of what Haitians call “The Thing.”

As “Duccha” (Duckens Charitable) relates through his play An Absolute Act of Citizenship, in which a dead man narrates his own death by violence in the streets of Port-Au-Prince and reclaims the life of an “ordinary citizen” from the death of the media who paint him as just another anonymous statistic via a televised news report.

As the living who are “walking on the bones of the dead;” as the living who are being brought together by the dead in Dominique Batraville’s Endless Vigils Over Crête-à-Pierrot are creating a dialogue of the living that wish to revive both physically and metaphysically the first leader of the revolution of an independent Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines; as the living wish to be inspired and called upon by the dead to bring the dying nation of Haiti together once again.

Here is a stage poetry that invokes the living to see and hear the dead and commune with them through the theatre. Here is where the nation of Haiti lives in its dead and the living of its always present memory that gives this desolated nation life by bringing together the dead and the living; the past and the present; and creating a hope and communion for a future that remains alive and thriving through theatre/poetry/song.

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Coutechève Lavoie Aupont was born in Mirebalais, Haiti in 1982. Poet, storyteller, actor and author ofPartances (2009), Lavoie has been called the “Stubborn Ink Poet.” He resides in Port-au-Prince.

Dominique Batraville, a poet, journalist, art critic, and actor, is a revered figure in his native Haiti, where he was born in 1962. Educated in Belgium and France, he returned to Haiti after the overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier in the mid-1980s. He served as literary critic and subsequently sports chronicler for the Haitian publication Le Nouvelliste. Since 2003 he has collaborated on the weekly Haïti en Marche, and since 2004 on the magazine Vues d’Haïti. Since 2003, Mr. Batraville has run a radio program, the cultural chronicle À Haute voix, on the station Mélodie FM (transmitted by Radio Soleil d’Haïti). His varied works of poetry have been translated into multiple languages. As an actor, Mr. Batraville has appeared in a dozen European films; he played the lead role in Michelange Quay’s short feature, L’évangile du cochon créole(2004); and he played the principal role in Charles Najman’s feature film Royal Bonbon (2002).

Duckens Charitable (Duccha) was born in Carrefour, Haiti in 1982. He studied economics, sociology and applied linguistics. Primarily a poet, Duccha’s poetry has been adapted for the theatre by the LE VIDE Theatre Workshop. His poetry has been published in numerous Haitian and French journals and anthologies as well as an Italian anthology. Duccha is also an occasional act

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin was born in Port-au-Prince in 1955. She is a poet, a performer, and a visual artist who has lived in Haiti, Chile and the United States. Her first novel, La Désenchantée, was published by Cidihca in 2006. She has since then published its Spanish translation, La Desencantada, and 2 more books of poems and prose: Lost and Found, and Amours et Bagatelles. Her work is also included in the RAL,M (Revue Française d’Art, de Littérature et de Musique).  She has performed her poetry in clubs and universities solo and with jazz bands, and exhibited her paintings in museums and galleries in the United States and Haiti.  She writes in 3 languages and currently lives and teaches in New York.

Guy Régis Jr., born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1974, is a playwright, translator, stage and film director and the founder of contemporary Haitian theatre troupe Nous Théâtre. His plays include Le Père (2009),La Mort de soi dans sa longue robe de mariée (2009), La Sable et la Mer (2005) and Bethsabée (2008), among many others. His texts have been staged in theatres, at universities, on the streets, in public squares and other places. His work has been seen in Venezuela, in the U.S., and in Europe at the Centre Georges Pompidou and La Villette in Paris, at the National Theatre of Belgium, and in international festivals at Liège and Limoges. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards. Mr. Régis’ short films include Black Out (2001) and Pays sauve qui peut (2001).

Jean-Dany Joachim grew up among poets in his native Port-au-Prince, Haiti and wrote his first poem at age 14. His writing found its voice in the never-ending, complex reality of his country. After moving to U.S.A nearly two decades ago, he left his work in the theatre and began writing in English, while at the same time exploring poetry in other languages. Jean-Dany has translated poetry from and into Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, and English. As the creator and producer of the City Night Reading Series, he brings together poets, writers, performers and lovers of literature for the celebration of the art of word in the Boston and NYC areas. Jean-Dany currently resides in Cambridge, Massachussetts, where he is serving as the city’s elected “Poet Populist” for 2009-2011. He is the author of “Chen Plenn – Leta”, and his work has appeared in anthologies and numerous literary magazines.

 

Staged poetry bearing witness: "The Thing" by Michèle Voltaire Marcelin

 

 

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