Friday, July 20, 2007
Monks and Peasants?
Last Sunday afternoon we heard music and voices blaring from loud speakers, and since we weren't certain if it was some sort of Leran emergency evacuation underway we headed out in search of the source. Yes, I am quite certain that the French would have music accompanying a village evacuation. The sounds pulled us in the direction of the chateau on the other side of the river, where through the hedges we could see the local villagers engaged in some sort of jousting. We found a way into the field and through the grazing sheep and were met head-on by a rather large lady with a clipboard. Uh-oh, the end of the line for us. She indicates by pointing at her clipboard that she wants to know if we are on her list. "Je voudrais regarder" Doug tells her that we would just like to watch. Not knowing if we had happened upon a communist party meeting (being that Leran has a communist mayor) we had not been invited nor were expected.
As we turn around to leave, we are caught by Corrinne Lamand, who with husband Philipe sold us #14 Rue du Four. Did we want to participate she asks? In what? The LERAN'CESTRAL!!! It is only the biggest event of the year and this was one of the first practices. We weren't at all convinced how we could be in the pageant, being unable to follow directions, but Corrinne pressed on. Just give it a try, she encouraged. So we did.
The Leranians went out of their way to accommodate us. It was a point-and-follow script for Doug and I. But we were intent on listening to the narration over the loudspeaker: a somewhat skewed historical perspective encompassing Simon de Montfort, the Cathars, Indians (Geronimo and Cochise, for what reason we are unclear) Christians and who knows what else. We could pick up occasional words and tried piecing some semblance of a script together. While we were on opposite sides of the field, we independently came to the same conclusion: this would be a great way to interact with the local French, pick up few words, practice our limited French with a patient audience, and have some fun.
Never having been involved in either the big screen or little screen, we consider ourselves quite lucky landing these roles without screen tests. Doug has been assigned to be a monk or friar, at least some outstanding member of the clergy (perfect type-casting we thought). I, on the other hand, am with the ranks of the paysans (peasants) in one scene and the pauvre gens (poor people) in another. Then there's a processional scene where we walk with the nobles. We assume there are costume changes for all these.
We've been given a schedule for all the 'Repetitions', and by the number of them I can tell that people in Leran take this seriously. The audio equipment is wheeled down Cours St. Jacques on a cart to the practice field, and last Wednesday the front wheel broke off the cart. Nobody panicked in the least, they just laughed, and propped it up on a hay bale.
At the end of the first 'Repetition' the boss lady wanted to add our names to her clip board, but they just couldn't seem to get the big guy's name right. "Jean"? someone said. "No. Doug."' "Jacque"? "No. Doug." Every time he would answer "Doug" pronounced in a normal American accent, it would baffle the French. It is apparently a vowel sound that is not in their repertoire. Our friend Alan, from Yorkshire in northern England, pronounces it "Doog" as well, and this the French can understand. So, here in France, he will be "DOOG."