Parisian Palimpsests and Creole Creations: Mme Marsan and Dlle Minette play Nina on the Caribbean Stage

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This article compares the theatrical careers in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) of two performers: Mme Marsan, a white European who dominated the public stage in 1780s Cap-Français, and a younger Creole woman of mixed racial ancestry, known as ‘Minette’, who performed in her home town of Port-au-Prince. Its focus is on performances of Dalayrac’s opéra-comique, Nina (1786), in which both women performed the lead role. Although Minette is regarded as a singer, it is argued that, by electing to put on and star in Nina, she was taking on one of the most demanding acting roles in the repertoire. The article considers the self-positioning – and positioning by others – of both performers in relation to the metropolitan performance model and the possibility of creating creolized forms of theatre. While Mme Marsan acknowledged that she was playing a role previously performed successfully in Paris by Mme Dugazon, Minette’s approach was more complex: drawing on unacknowledged references to a review of Dugazon’s performance, Minette also invoked a common Creole background that she claimed to share with her local audience. The metropolitan ‘model’ was thus not always imitated; it was also used as inspiration for new, subtly creolized forms of theatre.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalEarly Modern French Studies
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date20 Mar 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Mar 2019


  • Saint-Domingue
  • Colonial theatre
  • Creole theatre
  • Opéra-comique
  • Female performers
  • Mme Marsan
  • Minette
  • Mme Dugazon
  • Nina
  • Acting technique


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