Last weekend, I went down to the Festival Autrement Gay here in St. Etienne, France, to go see a play written, directed, and starred in by Alberto Lombardo (my boyfriend), Quand mon coeur bat je veux que tu l'entend (When my heart beats, I want you to hear it).
I have some pictures from the play and some thoughts, after the jump.
The spectacle was a mix of theater and video, scenes from two fictional love stories spliced with interviews from gays and lesbians about love. (Yes, yours truly appears in two of those mini-scenes. I couldn't watch those parts!)
The two plots centered around a growing love story between two men, Mario and Arnaud. They describe how they met, their love, and, eventually, jealousy and breaking up. It's juxtaposed with several post-break-up monologues from Pauline, a lesbian who simply loved too much.
It isn't about anything more than love, love, love, as a force that unites as well as causes pain. The smaller interviews throughout the play provide places to connect with reality, that everyone's reality is different, yet these people are seeking something that is all very much the same thing.
It was touching, really, to see three different characters presented so raw and so openly. It was French theater, so there were no breaks or separate acts to process any of what I was seeing, and the play builds up to how love and desire are both pain and possibility. The separate plot-lines, as well as all the interviews, gave the spectacle a sense that it was truly from and about a community.
It's hard to get much into the substance of the play here, but what I enjoyed was the spectacle of it all, both before and after. The theater was packed, and that's no small feat for a town like St. Etienne, the Fort Wayne, Indiana, of France. People came from all over the region and a few came down from Paris to see it.
I sat down next to a cute little old straight lady who asked me if the play was in English or French. I told her that it was in French, and she responded that she once went to see a play at that theater and it was all in English, but she understood it because she was taking courses now that she retired in English. Except for this part where she was sure a character died and then he was in the next scene....
The play opened with an interview scene, and the interviewee was in the audience. His friends shouted out and applauded him, and, fortunately, that didn't continue. But it was a reminder that this isn't just the thoughts of a writer, but those of an actual human being not too far away from me.
Afterward a good deal of the audience stuck around to wait for Alberto to come out to the lobby for applause and to go for a drink (this is France, of course, and any sort of accomplishment requires people to go to a bar). While there was quite a bit of family in the audience, I was also surprised to see how many straight people stayed throughout the entire play and waited around to talk with Alberto about how they identified with the characters and the interviewees.
I guess it just goes to show that love is identifiable, pain is always accessible, and that we've come a long way, even in the belle ville of St. Etienne.