Interview with Rodolphe Dana at Seuls en Scène Festival

September 1, 2015 | By Nicole Birmann & Bailey Holtz
© Anne Baugé

This September at Seuls en Scène, the French Theater Festival at Princeton University, Rodolphe Dana, Director of Le Collectif Les Possédés, will be performing Loin d'eux, an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Laurent Mauvignier, which Dana also directed. We had the opportunity to chat with Rodolphe about the production, which will play September 26 and 27.

Nicole Birmann Bloom (N.B.B.): Tell me about your first encounter with the writing of Laurent Mauvignier; what was your approach to the text and how did you shape it into a monologue for the stage? Are you working on any other projects with him?

Rodophe Dana (R.D.): My first encounter with Mauvignier was when I discovered his debut novel, Loin d’eux. That novel was unsettling for me, aesthetically and emotionally. For me, this was the birth of an author, which is to say the birth of a style that serves to tell a certain compelling story. It’s a novel where content and form come together in a way that makes you wants to read his work out loud because the language is so alive, so kinetic and oral. I very quickly saw the theatrical potential of his writing.

And then, because the novel is made up of a series of monologues – by the father, the mother, the son, the uncle, the aunt – I decided that I could play each role in succession myself. This I would do as a way of avoiding becoming too realistic, of stimulating the imagination of the spectator, and most importantly of giving voice to the characters’ shared language, also the author’s language.

I don’t currently have any other projects in the works with Laurent Mauvignier.

N.B.B.: In 2002 you founded Le Collectif Les Possédés with a group of friends and actors. Could you tell me more about the path you’ve pursued, the collective, the collective’s productions, and the authors with whom you work? 

R.D.: I have been the Head of Le Collectif Les Possédés since its founding in 2002, where I function as Artistic Director and Stage Director. I choose the plays we will be performing and cast them. I am also an actor myself. At Le Collectif, the investment of the actors extends far beyond character creation and performance on stage. Each does indeed perform, but beyond that, also acts as dramaturg, stage designer and light technician. All are involved in all phases of the creative process, and all work towards one goal: the successful staging of a project.

Le Collectif now has a repertoire of about a dozen works, some of which are pieces by classical and contemporary playwrights, some of which are adaptations of novels. From Jean-Luc Lagarce to Laurent Mauvignier and John Cheever, with some Anton Tchekhov and Louis-Ferdinand Céline mixed in, I have always staged projects that I viscerally feel must be brought to the stage, disregarding considerations of time and timeliness. My passion for theater is derived from bringing to the stage great authors and great texts that question what it means to be human by building and exploring the worlds in which these works live.

N.B.B.: In January of 2016, you will be succeeding Eric Vigner as the director of the Centre National Dramatique (CDN) of Lorient. Will you continue your adventures at Le Collectif, and if so, what will be your new priorities?

R.D.: Yes, I will be embarking on two adventures simultaneously, hopefully maintaining the same “Collectif” spirit as before. I believe that we are stronger when we share our doubts as often as we do as our convictions, when one is concerned by not only by one’s own life’s “script”, but also by that of others. I hope that everyone can be united under the common purpose of creation. My goal is to grow the spirit of Le Collectif to fit a large institution. I want to emphasize and encourage frequent and passionate creation, the sharing of ideas, the exchange of dialogue, and frankness and emulation, all in the service of the authors and the public. 

N.B.B.: What American authors are you hoping to stage, and which of Le Collectif’s productions do you see yourself presenting in the U.S.?

R.D.: I will be adapting the novel Price, by American Steve Tesich, in 2017. I would love to be able to perform it in the States. We already created a show by American author John Cheever called Bullet Park in 2011.

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