Katia story
Katia Café-Fébrissy © Johann Bonna

My name is Katia Café-Fébrissy. I am a Filmmaker, Director and Playwright. I came to the world of theatre from documentary cinema. 

My play project LEGACY (HÉRITAGES) is based on my documentary film ROOT UP (À LA RACINE) which was released in 2017, and won several awards on the international scale. That film tells the story of a Guadeloupean woman, her polluted land and her struggle to save her heirloom. In the editing suite, I had to make choices, however I was not yet done telling the story of this land, Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory contaminated by the chlordecone pesticide for the next 700 years.  

This NAC Playwright Residency took place in Toronto this summer in the form of a theatre lab at the Toronto Francophone Media Arts Centre (LaBo) with two guest artists. 

Similar to the film ROOT UP, the play LEGACY delves into the issue of land pollution in Guadeloupe, and focuses specifically on the impact this ecological disaster has had on the local population. The themes I will explore in LEGACY include relationship to the past, land ownership and family. 

It is through the prism of two French Caribbean women that I intend to delve into the chlordecone pesticide plague in Guadeloupe. 

LEGACY tells the tale of Amédée, who’s just inherited 5 acres of land from her late father; a land that is polluted by the chlordecone pesticide that is hence unusable. It’s also the tale of Kesha, who comes to Guadeloupe for the very first time to visit her aunt. Caught in the midst of an environmental crime rooted in French neo-colonialism, we are propelled into slices of life of a dysfunctional family that tames each other, lashes out their frustrations, opens up somewhat yet without really confessing what’s deep in their heart.  

The play LEGACY is like a dance of crossed words which deals with identity, cultural heritage and sense of belonging.

The play is in development.

During the theatre lab, I invited two guest artists--an improv comedian and a visual artist to work with me on building the skeleton of the play LEGACY. This is because I wanted to ensure that I would not simply recreate a theatrical version of the documentary film. 

The creative process started with the screening of my film ROOT UP, followed by a rich conversation amongst the three of us, during which both artists asked me questions about my intentions, vision as well as my doubts and fears.

This is how LEGACY became a blank canvas, steered away from censorship, which allowed us to pull together from our diverse paths as women, artists and westernized citizens of African descent, all at the crossroads of internalized colonial trauma. 

It is that encounter that enabled us to explore the themes of the play, and also brainstorm on  the narrative structure, the journey of the characters, their starting point, where they meet, and disagree. We also had in-depth conversations about production design including lighting and sound. With that play, the shared desire to pay tribute to the French Caribbean historical family model, creole identity, cultural traditions and modern blackness surfaced, and this is what I intend to further explore as I write the play LEGACY. 

By the end of the theatre lab, I had a detailed outline of the play, as well as a thorough character breakdown, a logline, synopsis and summary of each scene and ideas of production design that integrate video elements and samples of my documentary film.  

My goals for this theatre lab were exceeded in many ways. Further to 30 hours of creative and collaborative work, I now feel more confident to write this play that I want to produce in the near future.

The work carried out in this lab allowed me to expand the reach of the story, and also enabled me to give myself permission to voice what I deeply believe in, because secretly, I wish to spark a conversation, raise more consciousness about these issues and create momentum that will lead to actions for change. 

I have grown more confident thanks to the NAC Playwright Residency, and now I feel truly motivated to meet potential partners, including those based overseas with a view to produce or co-produce my new play LEGACY.

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