For three years, Evelyne de la Chenelière wrote on the long entrance wall in Montreal’s Espace GO as part of an artistic residency that would profoundly shake her outlook on words, theatre practice, and writing. The culmination of this is Ravage of Life, a bold departure from prevailing norms where the playwright breaks with written and performative conventions in her dramatization of an endless and multi-faceted instant between life and death.
In this experimental text, bits and pieces of a family’s realities unfold in a non-linear simultaneity that reflects with captivating irony the difficulties encountered when language is expected to facilitate communication.
Ravage of Life is a challenging invitation to eviscerate theatre and create a space where thought finds its body, freeing theatrical languages from grammatical constraints, logic, and structure in order to promise new theatrical experiences.
About the authors
Evelyne de la Chenelière, Montreal-based author and actress, has written plays staged in Quebec and abroad that have been translated and published in several languages. Her collection of plays, Désordre public, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French Drama in 2006, while her plays Les pieds des anges, La chair et autres fragments de l’amour, and La vie utile were nominated in 2009, 2012, and 2019 respectively. Her play Bashir Lazhar was adapted to filmby Philippe Falardeau and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards. The Académie des lettres du Québec awarded La vie utile the Marcel Dubé Prize in 2021, and the play will be produced in German in 2022 at Landungsbrücken Frankfurt. Evelyne’s first feature film is currently in development with micro_scope and her new play will be presented in the 2021/2022 season at Théâtre Denise-Pelletier in Montreal.
Louise H. Forsyth has always loved performance and theatre. As an amateur lover of the stage, she has acted, sung, danced, written, directed, produced, translated, stage managed, served as props manager, and hung out as much as she could as spectator. Woven into an amateur obsession with theatre has been her professional life, where she wrote two theses on the classic French writer of theatrical comedy, MoliÃ¨re, taught courses and supervised theses in theatre, drama, and dramatic literature, wrote scholarly studies about French and QuÃ©bec playwrights, and theorized about acting and dramatic writing. Her areas of academic specialization are feminist performance and dramaturgy in QuÃ©bec. Along with her passion for what the women of QuÃ©bec have written for theatre, she has been engaged for quite some time with developing theories of dramaturgy and acting au fÃ©minin, along with revealing the sources of tenacious sexism in the practices and conventions for doing theatre, for studying and evaluating it, and for recounting its history. In short, she has been wondering for quite some time why womenâ??s roles have tended to remain stereotypical in works for stage, TV and film, why theatre done by womenâ??when its perspective is explicitly derived from a womanâ??s point of viewâ??is still easily dismissed with a summary shrug as deserving only condescending scorn, why womenâ??s theatrical experimentation is so rarely discussed by scholars as serious theoretical work or used by them in their own theoretical reflections, and why the silence of critics on women and their richly creative activities has not yet been overcome when it comes to their accounts of theatre history.
- Winner, Prix Marcel Dubé
- Nominated, Governor General’s Literary Award for French Drama
Excerpt: Ravage of Life (by (author) Evelyne de la Chenelière; translated by Louise H. Forsyth)
(this place despite everything)
I’ll not put this world on trial, even if it mistreats us.
I’ll not put this time on trial, even if it hustles us toward the fall.
I’ll not put a system that assaults us on trial, I’ll not put a religion that blinds us on trial, I’ll not put an economy that assassinates, attacks, dries, smothers, grinds, drowns us on trial.
I’ll not put life on trial, despite its fundamental inadequacy, nor our species, which does not cease hating itself.
Anyway I’ll launch no trial; the world has enough of those who destroy,
and I know only how to show the blows (and then).
So what can I do? I who do not have the confidence of the troublemakers, to try to transmute what is real, to try to tear up my own ruts, to restrain what is dying, to flesh out time, to punch holes in impasses and see sense appear, perhaps, in its unstable beat?
I chose, one day, to make a commitment despite everything to places that are theatres,
And I chose to linger in this one so as to invite dreamers and to dream with them,
So as to give more space to speech, more speech to speech.
I chose to write on a long wall having the title I begin again, so as to recreate tirelessly and thus to converse infinitely with this world that never ceases to amaze me.
Take the word ravage, for example.
Still yesterday, it inspired in me only fear and destruction, ugliness and chaos.
And then, one day, my country friend taught me that a ravage is also a place
where the deer gather to face the rigours of winter.
In winter, if you go for a walk in the forest, you might fall on a ravage, which you
will recognise by the disturbance of the snow, by the many and mingled deer tracks,
like the imprint of mysterious writing, And you will see that the ravage is protected by tall evergreens that wrap their long resinous arms around it.
The first time I saw a ravage I thought That’s what we need! A spot to survive the winters, a place despite everything, a refuge for beauty, a stopping place for what hides itself! A ravage! A ravage! We need a ravage!
I thanked my country friend and I returned to the city.
Ever since I begin again,
And I hope, with you, to make a ravage out of this theatre.
Other titles by Evelyne de la Chenelière
Other titles by Louise H. Forsyth
Laurier Poetry Pack #3
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Laurier Poetry Pack #1
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Anthology of Quebec Women's Plays in English Translation Volume Three
Two Plays: The Cage and L'Ile de la Demoiselle
The Cage and L'Ile de la Demoiselle
Mobility of Light
The Poetry of Nicole Brossard
Anthology of Quebec Women's Plays in English Translation Volume Two
Anthology of Quebec Women's Plays in English Translation Volume One