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La Nef des sorcières

Collective creation in the form of a series of monologues, developed in a year-long workshop process by Marthe Blackburn, Marie-Claire Blais, Nicole Brossard, Odette Gagnon, Luce Guilbeault, Pol Pelletier, and France Théoret, premiered at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, March 5, 1976, directed by Guilbeault. Each of six women of different ages, occupations, and social strata attempt to create a sense of self by articulating their memories, frustrations, and desires.

The monologues were performed by Guilbeault as A Mad Actress who has forgotten her lines from the many women's roles she has played, and tries find her own identity through an examination of her own body; Francoise Berd as a woman at The Change of Life rebelling against the social and religious prejudices against women's physicality and aging; Michèle Craig as an assembly-line seamstress whose life is defined by the onorous routine of work; Gagnon as The Date who decides she has had enough of dating, and making herself into an object of male desire; Pelletier as Marcelle, a lesbian anxiously awaiting the arrival of her lover, and then, in a monologue written by herself, as a lesbian who celebrates her desire; and Michèle Magny as The Writer, who liberates herself through words.

The play was translated as A Clash of Symbols by Linda Gaboriau (Coach House Press, 1979; included in Anthology of Quebec Women's Plays in English Translation Vol. I (1966-1986). Ed. Louise H. Forsyth. Toronto: Playwrights Press, 2006).

A masterpiece of feminist theatre, this work caused a sensation at its creation not only due to its bluntness and nudity, but also because of the beauty of its language and simplicity of presentation. The recurrent line, "Je parle" emphasizes the importance of women articulating their own thoughts and feelings in a public sphere.

Further Reading: Louise H. Forsyth. "A Ship of Fools in the Feminine: Six Characters in Search of Self." Theatre and Autobiography. Writing and Performing Lives in Theory and Practice. Ed. Sherrill Grace and Jerry Wasserman. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2006: 167-82.

Commentary by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof. Additional information from Louise H. Forsyth, "Introduction to A Clash of Symbols," Anthology of Quebec Women's Plays in English Translation Vol I.

Last updated 2011-01-26