Rébecca Déraspe: Lessons for a better world

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La Scena Musicale's Discovery Box

In Faire la leçon, Rébecca Déraspe twists reality and its zones of terror to give it back all its light.
“We are fervid, we are masterful.” This is what the four characters of the play assert, despite the confinement and terror they suffer throughout the story. The prolific playwright, who already counts works for adults (Gametes and Deux ans de votre vie) and for young audiences (Le Merveilleux Voyage de Réal à Montréal and Je suis William) in her repertoire, demands nothing less than the beauty of the world. She explains the motivations behind her newest creation: her vision of themes of burning relevance is translated into a subjectivity she fully acknowledges. “I’m not offering an objective description of education,” she says, voluble and smiling, mentioning her seven-year-old daughter a number of times. “I’m not a sociologist. I arrived at this place through the prism of my sensibility.”

Faire la leçon takes place in a staff room where Mireille, Simon, Étienne, and Camille have taken refuge. The group feels the tragic loss of one of their fellow students before giving free reign to their respective anxieties in a system where freedom seems to be flaking like a skin of sorrow. Admitting to the pleasure she takes in “playing with distorted reality,” Rébecca Déraspe doesn’t seek to give definitive answers. And yet, the social microcosm she designed received positive reviews. “Some teachers said they saw it as a mirror of what was happening in their schools. Students were even surprised to learn that their teachers talk about them in the staff room.”

The “eternal teenager,” with her curious spirit and “intense turmoil,” here explores new avenues in her practice. She was immediately thrilled by the multidisciplinary approach of Théâtre I.N.K., founded in 2002 by Marilyn Perreault and Annie Ranger. The latter stands out in the art scene for her visual and physical treatment (including the use of dance or circus arts) in such notable productions as Lignedebus and more recently Fiel. Directed by Annie Ranger, Faire la leçon can count on an “energetic” cast: Solo Fugère, Xavier Malo, Marilyn Perreault and Klervi Thienpont. Many residences in high schools were carried out to make the subject even more tangible. Déraspe has learned to collaborate more closely with a team. “I wrote at least 30 versions of the text to match the words with the actions,” she says. “In a theatre of movement (such as I.N.K.), you have to find where to place the words to get an organic result. I consider it a truly co-authored production [with the stage director]and not a simple play.”

The multidisciplinary signature in no way eclipses the issues tackled with rich language (not to mention touches of humour). The four teachers confined in a sort of cell are confronted with political correctness and censorship, which are sometimes implicit. “Their room remains the only place where they are allowed, like a space where they can decompress and say what they want to say,” she explains. “These pedagogues then show their vulnerability and their individuality, which they must “hide” in class to maintain the duty of discretion.”

Among her quartet of characters, the author admits a preference for Camille, “the most motivated by her work, the first to arrive in the staff room, and the one who ends up blowing a fuse. She then lets go of everything she had been repressing since her own adolescence, including her desire for a real revolution.” Faced with often-complex relationships between teachers and students (Faire la leçon notably touches on cultural mixing, sexual consent and freedom of expression), is there a way out? The answer of the creator, who is also concerned as a citizen and mother: “We have to learn to trust the education system.”

And yet, behind the often-sombre atmosphere of this production, Déraspe demonstrates great trust in younger generations, with whom she regularly rubs shoulders during writing workshops. She wants young people to “learn to develop their own judgement and demonstrate empathy toward others.” In addition, a work like Faire la leçon allows her to think about the eradication of barriers between generations. In the story, “no one has raised their hand in three years. As we face major challenges like the environment, adults and children (not to mention teenagers) must come together to put pressure on our leaders.”

This woman of letters highlights the major influence of French anthropologist and sociologist David Le Breton. She has nothing but praise for his essay Suffering: Adolescence and Entry into Adult Life, a gold mine for understanding Faire la leçon and especially her next project, Ceux qui se sont évaporés, scheduled to play at the Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui. “The play explores the phenomenon of the loss of self (not to be confused with suicide) and the deconstruction of our protection system, since we’re caught in our own staging of our social being,” she says pensively.

At the end of the interview, Déraspe reiterated the importance of creating – “so that we all move forward together to take the future in our hands and dream up a different world.”.

Translated by Isabel Garriga

Faire la leçon will be presented at Aux Écuries from Nov. 12 to 29. www.auxecuries.com

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