theater in Paris – the Salem witch trials

I booked the last seat for Les Sorcières de Salem (The Witches of Salem), a modern day French adaptation of The Crucible.

The play I am going to see “evokes what nowadays may fall within the field of a “witch-hunt” in France, Europe or anywhere else (religious fanaticism, persecutions, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, moral order).”

The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692-93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism,  when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists. Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.

The play was first performed on Broadway on January 22, 1953. Miller felt that this production was too stylized and cold and the reviews for it were largely hostile (although The New York Times noted “a powerful play [in a] driving performance”). Nonetheless, the production won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play. A year later a new production succeeded and the play became a classic. It is regarded as a central work in the canon of American Drama.

The Espace Cardin is a small, intimist theater tucked away on a quiet tree-lined street, the avenue Gabriel, a stone’s throw from the Place de la Concorde.

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Below is the English-language link of upcoming theater performances throughout March, April, May and June.

https://www.theatredelaville-paris.com/en/spectacles/saison-2018-2019/theatre

Vanessa Paradis

A complete unknown, Paradis burst onto French TV screens in 1987 singing Joe the Taxi. She was 14 years old. Frenchmen went wild, and Lolita was born.

 

 

At age 16, she left high school to pursue a singing and acting career.

In 1990, Paradis won the César Award for Most Promising Actress for her role in Noce Blanche, a somewhat grotesque Nabokovian story about a nymphette in love with her teacher thirty years her senior. In reality, the age difference was 44 years. Actor Bruno Cremer, who played the schoolteacher, was 60 and she was 16. Such a film would never be made today, but back then, in France, the subject matter raised nary an eyebrow.

Then in 1991 she appeared in a TV commercial promoting Coco perfume for Chanel. In it, she wore black feathers and portrayed a bird swinging in a cage. The advertising campaign was created by the brilliant Jean-Paul Goude, famous graphic designer, illustrator, advertising film director and photographer who had worked at Esquire magazine in New York as art director.

 

 

Vanessa then moved to the United States to work with Lenny Kravitz, whom she also dated at the time. Together, they worked on a new album in English, a language she was now fluent in. Written and produced by Kravitz, the album, self-titled Vanessa Paradis, topped the French charts and briefly made the U.K. listings. One of the singles was “Be My Baby”, which made number 5 in France and gave her another Top 10 hit in the U.K. Here she is here on her album cover looking sullen, sultry and Brigitte Bardot-ish at the age of 19.

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From 1998 to 2012, Paradis was in a relationship with American actor Johnny Depp (they never married.) They have a daughter, Lily-Rose Melody Depp, and a son. A French-American actress and model, Lily-Rose today divides her time between Paris and Los Angeles. She is 19 years old. She too did an advertising campaign for Chanel.

 

Paris battle scars

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Today, Sunday, I jumped on the metro and headed over to Avenue de Friedland which runs parallel to the Champs-Elysées. I wanted to witness the damage caused by the gilets jaunes protests that take place every Saturday in the center of the city (and in other cities around the country.)

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I was particularly shocked to see this hotel boarded up and looking derelict. Back in the 1980s and 90s, my mother and I stayed in this lovely hotel. I actually walked inside and wanted to say to the receptionist “Are you OK?” 

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I walked the entire length of the avenue which eventually turns into Boulevard Haussmann. It was eerie, especially on a Sunday when there’s not much traffic.

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FISCAL JUSTICE. This is the NUMBER ONE complaint of the French people. When President Macron slapped an additional tax on elderly retirees who struggle to live decently on their tiny pensions, that was the LAST STRAW. It was this clumsy mistake – plus the rise in gasoline prices – that triggered the gilets jaunes protests. And meanwhile behemoth corporations who earn billions in profits each year pay no tax whatsoever. Unfair and unjust.

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This is ironic. ETAT DE SIEGE means STATE OF SIEGE, but it’s a play on words. The store sells chairs. The word “siège” refers to a chair or a seat.

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All banks were boarded up, including cash machines.

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Much is broken. But the worst is the broken trust in government (and politicians.) No trust whatsoever.

At 2:30 pm I was standing on the Place Saint Augustin. Then I walked down the Boulevard des Malesherbes towards Place de la Madeleine.

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Here’s another bank with the graffiti RENDEZ LA TUNE which means ‘return the money.’ Except it’s spelled THUNE (slang for money).

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Other graffiti in the streets of Paris includes the following (these are not my photos) –

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We think, so we no longer follow you. (message to the government)

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OK, Google, pay your taxes

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Fiscal fraud is disgusting, so are your fries! Kisses. (message to McDonalds)

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Macron, do as I do, tax your buddies.

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2019: nothing but good revolutions

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Ministry retirements for our Grandmothers!

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Please leave the State in the toilets where you found it

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I have nothing, but I am not nothing.

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Macron and the CAC40 thieves?  CAC 40 is the French stock market index that tracks the 40 largest French stocks. 

 

 

Femen and International Women’s Day

I wrote this post six years ago. Clearly, the subject is still relevant which is why I’m reposting it today. The above photo shows Inna Shevchenko, leader of Femen in Paris.

It is in Paris where the training center of this extraordinary activist group that calls itself Femen is located. The Guardian newspaper calls them “topless warriors.”

I’m blown away by the courageous audacity of these young women. I admire them. But I’m also saddened because as a teenager of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s in North America, I have to ask:  What happened? Or rather, what didn’t happen? Why, four decades later, are we still engaged in battle?  I thought we had abolished sexism, inequality and the rest.  It’s too clear that women the world over must keep affirming, keep defining and keep defending the cause in the face of subjugating forces that try to beat us down.  We must be ever-vigilant.

Femen protests against all forms of injustice. Their slogans are concise. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:

Gangster party in Davos.

Poor because of you.

Better bare than burka.

Fashion fascism (against anorexia)

Pope Benedict XVI:  Game over.

My body, my rules.

Last week on this blog I posted the news of Stéphane Hessel’s death, a dissident who encouraged citizens to stand up and express outrage over all forms of injustice. I wonder what he would have thought of this all-female militant group who do exactly that.

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The Femen movement was created in the Ukraine in 2008 to protest against sex tourism, prostitution and the exploitation of women in the former Soviet state. Inna Shevchenko (pictured in first photo up top and below) is the feminist crusader in charge of the Paris boot camp. Daughter of an army officer, she joined the Kiev protests. Ukraine is not a Brothel was their slogan. As a consequence she lost her job as a press officer. She then fled her country for France.

Femen has set up camp in Paris’s poor and ethnically mixed Goutte d’Or district.

“The decision to bring the fight to France and open a training centre was a French initiative, an invitation from French feminists who sent us a message saying they needed us,” said Inna.  “Before then we thought of France as a first world and already feminist country that didn’t really need us. Since arriving, I have met many Frenchwomen and they say they need to start the fight again. We are bringing a new face, new blood, a new fight to feminism.”

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Inna Shevchenko, the 24-year-old leader of Femen in France

Is it not contradictory, a journalist asked her, that the new feminists are using nakedness to rail against female exploitation?

“Ah, but we have a different idea; we are talking about peaceful war, peaceful terrorism,” Inna said. “We are taking off our clothes so people can see that we have no weapons except our bodies. It’s a powerful way to fight in a man’s world. We live with men’s domination, and this is the only way to provoke them, to destabilize them; it’s the only way to get attention.”

Activists from the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN

“We don’t hide our bodies, we don’t hide our faces, we confront our enemies face to face. We look them in the eyes and we have to be well prepared physically for that.”

There was, she explained patiently, no contradiction in going topless or naked to protest against what they view as the three main evils of a global “patriarchal society”: sexual exploitation, dictatorship and religion. Protesting naked, as Femen’s slogans insist, is liberté, a reappropriation of their own bodies as opposed to pornography or snatched photographs which is exploitation.

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On a less intellectual level, taking their clothes off ensures a lot of publicity.

She added: “Believe me, it is really difficult for me to take my clothes off and stand in a public place. But this is the fight, and the fight is never easy.”

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Oh, look…an early Femen painted by Eugène Delacroix in 1830. It’s called Liberty Leading the People. A woman personifying Liberty holds the flag of the French Revolution in one hand and brandishes a bayonette with the other.

FEMEN members demonstrate at the congress centrum

Women of the world, unite.

Richard Yates, revisited

 

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I’ve just ordered these books from Amazon. They’ll be delivered to a locker located in a shopping mall ten minutes away from my office. Of course I’ve read Yates’ best-selling Revolutionary Road, but I haven’t read his other books, so I’m looking forward to it.

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Hailed as “America’s finest realistic novelist” by the Boston Globe, Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road, garnered rare critical acclaim for his bracing, unsentimental portraits of middle-class American life.

Disturbing the Peace is no exception. Haunting, troubling, and mesmerizing, it shines a brilliant, unwavering light into the darkest recesses of a man’s psyche.

To all appearances, John Wilder has all the trappings of success, circa 1960: a promising career in advertising, a loving family, a beautiful apartment, even a country home. John’s evenings are spent with associates at quiet Manhattan lounges and his weekends with friends at glittering cocktail parties. But something deep within this seemingly perfect life has long since gone wrong. Something has disturbed John’s fragile peace, and he can no longer find solace in fleeting affairs or alcohol. The anger, the drinking, and the recklessness are building to a crescendo—and they’re about to take down John’s family and his career. What happens next will send John on a long, strange journey—at once tragic and inevitable.

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I’m currently reading The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells. The novel follows three estranged siblings who lost their parents as children, finding their way through life and hoping not to do it alone. Wells is a German writer living in Berlin. In 2016 he won the European Prize for Literature for this bestselling book. As much as I enjoy reading new books, I must admit that I never tire from re-reading my old favorites (Donna Tartt, Joan Didion, Alan Hollinghurst, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Emily St. John Mandel, Louise Erdrich, Rachel Kushner, Teju Cole, Raymond Chandler … etc. etc.) 

So many books, so little free time!

why do the good ones have to die?

I’ve just read this article below in The Guardian and I feel angry. And I ask myself – why do the good ones have to die when the pourriture of this world live long, destructive, fraudulent, self-serving, marauding lives while poisoning us all?

Pulitzer prize-winning war photographer, Behrakis, said of his photographs, “My mission is to make sure that nobody can say: I didn’t know.”

Now he’s dead, at the age of 58. And the criminals and gangsters live on. With impunity. I stopped believing in God a long time ago.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/mar/03/pulitzer-prize-winning-reuters-photographer-yannis-behrakis-dies-aged-58