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Students in the French Theatre Workshop, University of Delaware

French theatre

Students perform full-length French comedy, converse with playwright

Students in the University of Delaware’s French Theatre Workshop course performed the American premiere of the contemporary play Drapeau rouge et tasse de thé (Red Flag and a Cup of Tea) at Hartshorn Theatre on UD’s Newark campus.

The full-length comedy by playwright Paul Cote was performed entirely in French and sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, with assistance from the Department of Theatre. The performance was the culmination of their semester’s work, said Deborah Steinberger, associate professor of languages, literatures and cultures and of comparative literature.

The week after the May 5 performance, with help from Academic Technology Services, the students engaged in a videoconference with Cote from his home near Lyons, France. Cote answered questions from the class about his play, his career and his craft.

Drapeau rouge et tasse de thé has been performed more than 300 times in Europe, but Cote said that the play’s American premiere at UD was a special source of pride.

“This was a great opportunity for me, and one that I would never have imagined,” he said. “Having my work chosen and performed in the U.S., and afterwards being able to dialogue with the student performers, brought a whole new dimension to my experience as an author.”

The students were equally enthusiastic about the experience.

“It was an incredible experience to chat with Monsieur Cote,” senior Monika Chawla said. “He graciously answered our questions about the play and the script, and revealed to us some subtleties that we hadn't grasped.

“We learned more about him as a playwright and as a person. Rarely do students get to meet the authors of the works they study in class. We were very fortunate to have that opportunity.” 

The French Theater Workshop itself pushed senior Nora Reynolds beyond her comfort zone, she said.

“I was not confident in my abilities to memorize my lines or pronounce them correctly, let alone to act, at the beginning of our rehearsals,” Reynolds said. “As I practiced more, I gained more confidence. The more comfortable and confident I became, the more fun I had with the experience. This class took something that gave me fear and turned it into something that gives me pride and happiness.”

Senior Karina Scorzetti agreed, saying, “After so much hard work and commitment, I am extremely proud of my classmates and myself for what we have accomplished.”

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