Midnight in Paris — in translation 

click to enlarge Samuel Gallet’s play “Communiqué No. 10” is one of three French plays featured. Far left, “Bal Littéraire” is a French-style - theatrical club night. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Samuel Gallet’s play “Communiqué No. 10” is one of three French plays featured. Far left, “Bal Littéraire” is a French-style theatrical club night.

The Parisian avant-garde hits the San Francisco stage this week in a one-of-a-kind, three-day event featuring three freshly translated, contemporary French plays.

“Des Voix … Found in Translation” opens Friday at Z Space with a whirlwind kickoff show called “Bal Littéraire” — a popular French entertainment that includes a no-host bar, club dancing and “flash” play performances.

“It’s nightclub theater,” says Amy Mueller, artistic director of the Playwrights Foundation, a “Des Voix” co-presenter.

At the center of the evening will be a brand-new dramatic work by participating “Des Voix” playwrights, who, in a matter of hours, will write play fragments inspired by a chart-topping pop song. Their pieced-together dialogue will come together in a spontaneous show ending with a dance party — disco ball and club lights included.

“It’s a literary joyride to Paris, but right here in San Francisco,” Mueller says.

“Des Voix” is a transatlantic collaboration between the Playwrights Foundation, the Consulate General of France and La Maison Antoine Vitez, an organization led by French translator Laurent Muhleisen dedic­ated to translating
non-Francophone drama into French.

The weekend program of play readings continues Saturday afternoon with Samuel Gallet’s “Communiqué No. 10,”
debuting in English. Young revolutionaries and a rising underclass are at the heart of the play, which seems prophetic, given that Gallet wrote it before the Occupy movement’s viral spread.

“It’s a futuristic, post-apocalyptic piece,”  Mueller says. “It’s dark, funny, intriguing and beautifully executed.”

In Saturday night’s offering — “Pride, Pursuit and Decapitation,” a nonlinear series of monologues by Marion Aubert — female characters divulge personal frustrations about work and domestic life.

“I’ve never read a play like this,” Mueller says. “I read about 300 plays a year, but Aubert has a singular voice. The traditional social censors we have in America are not present. It’s unhinged.”

A dysfunctional family tries to keep it together in “Out There” by Nathalie Fillion, onstage Sunday.

Its title taken from the French idiom “a l’ouest,” which means a little off, or askew, Fillion’s play exposes a family dealing with multiple divorces thrown into greater crisis by the 2008 recession, and circumstances complicated by a patriarch high on antidepressants and a grandfather with Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a Chekhovian drama for the 21st century” says Mueller, laughing. “San Franciscans should see this because it’s a rare opportunity to see and understand works by emerging, edgy French artists working in the ‘now,’”  Mueller says.

As part of the exchange program, American playwrights Rajiv Joseph, Liz Duffy Adams and Marcus Gardley will see their works translated and staged in Paris in 2013. The unusual cross-pollination promises to shake up cultural contexts and audience experiences.


Des Voix … Found in Translation

Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F.
When: Friday through Sunday
Tickets: $15 to $75; multi-event passes available
Contact: (800) 838-3006,

7 p.m. Friday “Bal Littéraire”
4 p.m. Saturday “Communique No. 10”
8 p.m. Saturday “Pride, Pursuit and Decapitation”
11 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 27 “Translating Experience” discussion
5 p.m. May 27 “Out There”

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Lauren Gallagher

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