Emory Report
October 20, 2008
Volume 61, Number 8


Oct. 20–30
Director Thierry de Peretti and sound composer Nicolas Baby on campus to develop production. To schedule a visit, contact Amin Erfani at aerfani@learnlink.emory.edu or 404-290-3179.

Oct. 20
Screening of film on Koltès, followed by panel discussion featuring Isma’il ibn Conner, de Peretti, Baby and faculty member Catherine Dana. 4:15–6:15 p.m. White Hall 208. Reception follows.

Oct. 27

Director’s roundtable discussion with de Peretti, Baby and actress Janine Barris. 4:15–6 p.m. White Hall 205.

Feb. 6, 2009
Brave New Works reading of the translation of Koltès’ “The Day of Murders in the History of Hamlet.” 7 p.m. Schwartz Center Theater Lab.

March 16–20
de Peretti and Baby return to Atlanta for pre-production work in Dobbs University Center.

March 19

Colloquium with de Peretti and Baby. 4–5 p.m. Schwartz Center Theater Lab.

Spring 2010
Koltès exhibit in the Schatten Gallery, play’s production at
7 Stages, and Koltès scholar Christophe Bident teaches seminar at Emory.

For more information,
contact Amin Erfani at aerfani@learnlink.emory.edu



Emory Report homepage  

October 20
, 2008
Collaboration spreads Koltès work

By Patti Ghezzi

Isma’il ibn Conner was an actor seeking his first professional role when he auditioned for Bernard-Marie Koltès’ “Black Battles with Dogs.” He wasn’t impressed.

“I thought it was some stupid French dude’s play,” recalls ibn Conner, who nevertheless got the part. A week into production, a passage moved him so much it set him on a mission to introduce the provocative work of Koltès to Americans through a partnership with Emory.

In the scene, ibn Conner’s character wants to retrieve the body of his brother, who was killed on a West African construction site. The character describes how his family needs the corpse to keep them warm, and the corpse needs the family to stay warm.

“Something broke in me,” ibn Conner says. “I realized what Koltès was wanting us to do is be human.”
Since then, ibn Conner, artistic associate with 7 Stages Theater and artist in residence at Emory, has immersed himself in Koltès and is undertaking the translation of six plays for productions at 7 Stages over a 10-year period.

This month and again in March, Emory’s European Studies Project will host ibn Conner, French director Thierry de Peretti, and sound composer Nicolas Baby as they work on the translation and production of Koltès’ play, “The Day of Murders in the History of Hamlet” (“Le Jour des meurtres dans l’histoire d’Hamlet”).
The residency and the events in “Autour de Koltès/About Koltès” are funded in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Atlanta is an ideal setting, because Koltès’ work is laden with imagery relating to slavery and racism. “We’re still working through the ghosts of slavery, of the civil rights movement,” ibn Conner told students in professor Valérie Loichot’s class, “Ghosts of the Plantation,” which explores the aftermath of slavery. Students reacted strongly to ibn Conner’s translation for Koltès’ “In the Solitude of Cotton Fields,” which 7 Stages produced last spring.

“As Americans, we’re taught to have a great amount of pretense,” ibn Conner told them. “Koltès wanted us to embrace our animal side.”

Born in 1948 in France, Koltès lived in New York early in his writing career. He died of complications from AIDS in Paris in 1989.

His work is known in Europe but remains obscure in the United States, says Judith Miller, who read Koltès in the 1980s in Paris when Patrice Chéreau staged Koltès’ work. “I remember the debut of a radical play by a radical playwright,” says Miller, associate professor of history and co-director of European Studies. “I had to read his work to find out what the furor was all about.”

“Autour de Koltès/About Koltès” is ideal for the European Studies Project, Miller says. “This collaboration will call attention to the substance of Koltès work while adding to Emory’s reputation in contemporary literature and the arts and to Atlanta’s standing as a major site for path-breaking theatrical productions,” Miller says.
It will be of interest for scholars and students in literature, gender studies, African American Studies, history and theater.

In 2010, 7 Stages will produce Koltès’ adaptation of “Hamlet.” Other aspects of the partnership include student workshops, a film screening, readings and an exhibition about the writer’s life, created by his brother, who has visited Emory. Interested faculty and students will be able to sit in on the production’s table work while de Peretti and Baby are on campus.

“This is our first big public scholarship initiative,” says Elizabeth Goodstein, associate professor in the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts and co-director of the European Studies Project. “We’re hoping to foster connections between Europeanists at Emory and cultural endeavors of all sorts in Atlanta in the future.”