February 18, 2011

U.S. Koltés Project brings French director Phillip Boulay to campus

From left to right: Isma`il Ibn Conner, Philip Boulay and Amin Erfani at a stage reading.

Graduate student is translating the texts

By April Rim

Acclaimed French stage director Philip Boulay is on campus for a 10-day theater project exploring the work of French playwright and director Bernard-Marie Koltès. His visit is part of the U.S. Bernard-Marie Koltès Project 2011, a collaboration among several arts organizations including Atlanta's 7 Stages Theater.
Boulay is working closely with Isma'il Ibn Conner, actor and founder of the Koltès Project. Together they will work with actors and students on the stage adaptation of two of Koltès' plays.
Throughout his residency at Emory, Boulay will lead screenings, readings, rehearsals and round-table discussions. Events include a three-day theater workshop around the notion of the chorus in modern theater, giving participants the opportunity to understand the fundamentals of theater from a French perspective.

"We will work on the concept of ‘balance' on stage. This concept belongs to the fundamental rules of tragedy, yet is still at work in the contemporary theater of Bernard-Marie Koltés," says Boulay.
Emory translator seeks perspective

"The Night Just Before the Forests" and "Tabataba" are two Koltès' plays that Boulay will be closely examining. Originally written in French, these texts are now being translated into English by Amin Erfani, a noted scholar of contemporary French theater and Emory graduate student in the Department of French and Italian.
Erfani says that the first draft is completed and that he hopes to produce a final draft by the end of Boulay's residency.

"I want Emory to get a new perspective on theater that is very different from American theater. Also, I want people to get to know Koltès who he really is, and realize that the things he deals with are very much in connection with Americans," says Erfani.
Koltès was prolific in France during the 1980s. His work is influenced by post-colonial aspects of literature and focuses on people who are undermined by social class. He is known for building his plays around dialogue instead of plot. Erfani says that this is why Koltès' work is difficult for the American audience to accept, giving him reason to try and explain it. Koltès died in 1989 at age 41 due to complications from HIV.
The main goal of the Koltès Project is to translate six Koltès plays into English and publish them, which has never been done before. Currently, only British versions exist.
Looking ahead, Conner says that people can expect to see the project expand the production of Koltès work to reach other universities and theatres across the U.S. as well as sponsor artistic residencies and productions in France.

Boulay's residency at Emory and the Koltès 2011 Project will run until Feb. 25. Events are free and open to the public. Sponsors include Culturesfrance, Fonds Face, The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Department of French and Italian, Theater Studies, and the French Enrichment and Response Association.

See a detailed schedule of the U.S. Bernard-Marie Koltès Project 2011 events at Emory.

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