SEVEN DEVILS AND A FRENCH NUN
ORIGINAL SOLO SHOW CO-CREATED BY CARINE MONTBERTRAND AND RON BASHFORD
All photos on this page: Jane Ames
ABOUT THE SHOW:
This original “devised” solo show is based on the true story of Jeanne des Anges, an Ursuline nun who was the Mother Superior of a convent in Loudun, France in the first part of the 17th Century. This egomaniacal, sex-starved nun accuses an ambitious, attractive priest of possessing her with seven devils. As a bouffon clown, Carine Montbertrand portrays Jeanne and each of the devils who possessed her. Multiple exorcisms, a burning and a major miracle later, Jeanne becomes a living saint, captivating all of France like a rock superstar.
LOS ANGELES, CA: February 9th and 15th, 2019, at 7:30, for INDEPENDENT SHAKESPEARE COMPANY’S “Iambic Lab Festival” https://www.iscla.org/studio/
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA: May 18 and 19, 2018, at 9:30, Immediate Theatre Project/North Carolina Stage Company. Tickets – https://www.ncstage.org/productions/seven-devils-french-nun-true-story/
The show was developed at Amherst College over the course of several seasons. Its development was funded by a 2013 FRAP AWARD, endowed by the H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life.
In 2015, the project was further developed with a “Performance Residency” at the Barn Arts Collective in Bass Harbor, Maine. At that time, it was presented to an audience for the first time as a work-in-progress. An original song by PJ Ju was added to the show.
In February of 2016 the work-in-progress was presented at Cloud City in New York under the auspices of “BarnFest” and in April of 2016 at New York’s renowned venue for works in development, Dixon Place.
The show had its official premiere at Amherst College in May of 2016.
It was presented by The Harold Clurman Center for New Works in Movement and Dance Theater (MAD), a professional division of New York’s Stella Adler Studio of Acting, in July of 2016. In January of 2017 it was one of four professional Solo Shows to be presented by Stella Adler’s Actor Warrior Festival.
Primary source material for the production includes the untranslated autobiography of Jeanne des Anges. Other excellent sources were THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN, by Aldous Huxley and THE POSSESSIONS OF LOUDUN by Michel Certeau.
The Bouffon clown style of Philippe Gaulier, with whom Carine studied at Ecole Philippe Gaulier, heavily influences this work.
Mostly a healthy dose of imagination, inspired by research into the true events, is what went into creating the show – which was largely written through an extensive period of improvisation.
For further details or a video of the show, please contact Carine through the “Contact” page on this website.
Crime of Passion at Barn Arts
by Nan Lincoln, reviewer for the Mount Desert Islander and Ellsworth American
TREMONT — Once again, this summer, in a box of chocolates fashion, The Barn Arts Collective has been filling the weekends here with an unpredictable series of work-in-progress performances by an ever-changing panoply of guest artists.
Most often these theatrical offerings are both tasty and a little nutty.
To extend that metaphor, this past weekend’s one-woman performance by Carine Montbertrand, who is developing a solo show about the life of 17th century French nun Jeanne des Anges for an Amherst College fellowship, is quite simply delicious — one of the best in the box, uh barn, so far this summer.
Montbertrand’s classical training shines through this provocative, multi-layered performance, engaging her audience from the start with her commanding presence — in this instance the presence of a tiny, be-robed and coifed nun with a terribly hunched back.
If this were a rock musical— and it does have definite elements of that genre — it might be called “Jeanne des Anges and the Angry Hunch.”
This little nun engages us from the moment we meet her as a girl, perhaps recently arrived at the Ursuline Nunnery outside Paris where her noble parents have dumped her because they can imagine no worldly future for their deformed daughter.
The girl is ticked off. But she is also smart, sly and desperate to find something of her own to love. At first it is a litter of kittens, newly born, one of which she kills with her smothering affection — a portent of things to come.
Eventually Jeanne suppresses her rage at being removed from a world she loved and a strong libido to immerse herself in being the best darn little bride of Christ she can be — Jeanne of the Angels. Her ingratiating behavior wins the Mother Superior’s favor to the point where she is chosen, despite her youth, to be the successor.
In this post-Freudian age we all know what happens when anger and a healthy sex drive are repressed. In Jeanne — triggered by a rejection from a priest she clearly has a crush on — and some political expediency— it all becomes as twisted and deformed as her back. She starts having visions, hearing voices, speaking in strange tongues — she is possessed by demons. Pretty soon the other young nuns at the Abby are similarly possessed and a team of Exorcists is sent in. In the throes of her passionate possession Jeanne names the priest she loves as the culprit and, like that long ago kitten, causes his death. She also develops stigmata — the names Jesus, Mary and Joseph “miraculously” appear on her hand.
Jeanne des Anges becomes famous throughout France a rock star really, going on tour to tell her demonic story. She enjoys the attention. And when the hullaballoo dies down, she manages to get repossessed performing dubious miracles of her own, including a hysterical pregnancy.
Montbertrand tells Jeanne’s true story — based on the nun’s own autobiography— in both narration and recreation that includes at various times a torturous reenactment of her possession, a stand-up comedy routine with Belgian jokes, a little hard rock singing and some audience interaction — at one point we are all calling for the immolation of the accused priest, Grandier.
It is quite simply a tour-de-force that has Montbertrand’s audience transfixed, both horrified and drawn to this devious, clever, needy woman.
To see what sort of theatrical confection is being offered next at Barn Arts check out the website at barnartscollective.com. On Thursday and Saturday mornings at 11 they also stage an interactive children’s show “We Run The Ship” at the Criterion Theater in Bar Harbor.