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

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Abstract

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
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Mar 2019

Keywords

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

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