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5 Things to Know About The Andersen Project

By Sara Billmann

1. Lepage initially created the role that is now performed by Yves Jacques, his “go-to” person for his one-man shows (Jacques was also the actor in Far Side of the Moon in 2005). The play is multi-layered and, like 08/09 Season’s Complicite, enjoyable on many levels – either at the top-level story or digging deeper into the meaning at its core.

2. Jacques plays all three main characters: Frederic, an albino rock lyricist from Montreal who heads to Paris to write the libretto for a children’s opera based on a Hans Christian Andersen story; Arnaud, the opera company’s fast-talking administrator whose personal life is unraveling due to his sexual obsessions; and Rashid, a Moroccan janitor who mops up after clients at a peep show that is located on the first floor of the same building that houses the apartment Frederic is subletting.

3. An example of the multi-layered structure: Lepage was commissioned to write a piece about Andersen to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth.  His story is about a man who is commissioned to write a libretto for a children’s opera about Andersen.  Two of Andersen’s fairy tales are woven into the script.  The Dryad is about a tree nymph who sacrifices a long life in the woods for a single day in Paris – a parallel to the librettist, who is seeking artistic validation outside of his own country.

4. Those who have traveled in France will see many connections to what makes the French, well, French.  There’s an opening monologue by the opera director, Arnaud, that is breathtaking in its scope and humor – nearly 2,000 words run together in a rambling yet coherent style that only the great storytellers like Spalding Gray or Garrison Keillor can accomplish. The monologue is performed with a strong accent, and every word is not intended to be understood — it’s meant to give a flavor of the character and his obsessive personality.

5. The piece is in both English and French (with supertitles).  The constantly shifting projections and stagecraft make the technical aspects of the production at least as fascinating as the story itself.

Ultimately, The Andersen Project is really about an artist searching for validation and fame, unraveling relationships, and dealing with personal demons. The story itself is accessible in that The Andersen Project focuses on larger life issues that virtually everyone deals with at some point and can relate to in multiple ways.

See The Andersen Project March 15-17 at the Power Center.

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