Dear friends of French Theatre,
My name is Catherine Vidal and I’m a director. At the invitation of the NAC’s new artistic director, Mani Soleymanlou, I’ll be the NAC French Theatre artist in residence this season and next. Is it because I’ve been inspired by my reading of Anton Chekhov’s 19th-century correspondence that I haven’t used email to communicate with you? Perhaps. You may also notice that I’ve put aside the keyboard and chosen to write to you in pencil. It’s because, they say, our penmanship says as much about us as a photograph. And since the purpose of this letter is to introduce myself to you... OK. It’s true that I’m using my most meticulous and even calligraphy here (which might obscure some of the information unconsciously conveyed by my handwriting), but that’s only to make it as easy as possi-ble for you to read it, because if I weren’t careful it would look like this, and I’d be afraid of discouraging you from reading my letter, even though it’s more legible than a doctor’s scribble.
Speaking of doctors, let’s get back to my residency and what I’ll be working on. For the first time, I’ll be directing a play by the famous writer and doctor Anton Chekhov. His ability to portray human beings without judgement or glorification, his way of getting the audience to play the role of doctor in order to diagnose what’s happening on stage, his unequalled powers of evocation, and his humour! Yes, he has a great sense of humour—I’ll show you the proof in his correspondence!
I’m pleased and excited to be tackling La mouette with such an exceptional team (meet them in the Special Projects section of the NAC French Theatre website). Between now and spring 2024, the company of performers and designers and I will delve into and around Chekhov’s work, the themes evoked in the play (art and creation, intergenerational conflict, and the eternal tension between the ancient and the modern, among others), and organize encounters between you and our team in the form of evening readings, sound creations and discussions. I’ll keep in touch with you, if I may (and I’d be delighted to hear from you, too, if ever you felt like writing!), and I’ll host talkbacks after certain performances, as I did after the November 18 performance of Michel Tremblay’s Cher Tchekhov. The next talkback I’ll be hosting will be after the February 3 performance of Cabaret noir by Mélanie Demers. It would be great to see you there! If you don’t know Mélanie, she’s a wonderful, inspiring artist with whom I sometimes have the good fortune to collaborate.
Thank you for reading, friends of FT. I’ll leave you with one of Chekhov’s letters.
* * *
Yalta, December 26, 1898
Most esteemed colleague,
They wrote to me from Moscow, and they’re trumpeting it all over town: The Seagull is a success. But as I’m generally unlucky when it comes to theatre, as fate would have it, one of the performers fell ill after the first performance, and my seagull has left the stage. I have such bad luck with the theatre, such bad luck, that if I married an actor, we’d probably beget an orangutan or a porcupine.
Send me something else to read, and do write to me again.
Your A. Chekhov
I forgot the most important part: Happy New Year!