Penobscot Theatre Company has commissioned Atlanta-based, French-speaking theatre company Théâtre du Rêve (Theatre of the Dream) to create an original work inspired by Maine poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie.” The piece, “Je Ne Suis Pas Evangeline (I am not Evangeline),” will be the final offering of the Digitus Theatrum Main Course subscription series available to stream from Thursday, April 22, through Sunday, May 9.

“I fell head over heels in love with Maine more than a decade ago, when I toured with a French-language play to Portland,” says Théâtre du Rêve Producing Artistic Director Caryoln Cook. “I love the place, I love the people, I love the sense of rootedness, and I love the history. I’m thrilled to be working with Penobscot Theatre Company on this dream project.”

In her research, Cook took a closer look at the famous epic poem by Longfellow. Written in 1847, the poem gave Acadians the dignity of a narrative for their traumatic displacement and genocide at the hands of the British in 1755. While “Evangeline” was an instant hit, the central romantic heroine, Evangeline is a myth. Cook then came across an interview with Lise Pelletier, the director of Acadian archives in Fort Kent, speaking about how while Longfellow, an American male, beautifully captured the plight and spirit of Acadians, that the poem doesn’t tell the whole story of the Acadian French speaking people of Maine, nor does it tell the story of the strength, the power, and the resilience of Franco-American women.

Thus came “Je Ne Suis Pas Evangeline (I Am Not Evangeline),” an original story about a modern-day woman, Eva, who has suffered a loss. Throughout the play, as Eva packs up her home in Georgia to return to Maine, she compares Evangeline’s story to her own life and the lives of her two Acadian grandmothers who imbued her with grit, humor and wisdom.

This piece is stunningly brought to life by the Théâtre du Rêve team: Kris Valleriano (Videographer), Jennifer Schottstaedt (Costume Designer & “Evangeline”), Jennifer Kimball (Production Manager), Lauren Morris (Director), Eliana Marianes (Associate Producer). Like all TdR productions, sections of the play are performed in French. The entire film will have English and French subtitles as needed.

For 25 years, Théâtre du Rêve has been dedicated to bringing the French language and Francophone culture to life. With stages dark, the company turned to presenting virtual salons, lively social gatherings that promote community connection and discussion of topics relevant to theatre content. At the helm of the company is Producing Artistic Director Caryoln Cook, whom PTC’s Bari Newport had worked with prior to her move to Maine.

“I am thrilled to be bringing this one of a kind play to life for our audiences,” says Producing Artistic Director, Bari Newport, “with such a rich history and culture it is extremely powerful to celebrate this aspect of what makes Maine, Maine. It is a story of what it means to be lost, to be loved, and to be home.”

To further celebrate Acadian women, French speaking cultures, and their importance to Maine’s history, Penobscot Theatre Company will host three salon talkbacks on Facebook with Carolyn Cook and other Francophone community members. These talks are designed to dig deeper into themes and topics of the piece. Snack and drink recipes will be provided and all are invited to enjoy the company and good conversation on Facebook Live at 7p.m. on Thursday, April 22, Monday, April 26, and Thursday, May 6.

Single/household tickets are $40. Penobscot Theatre Company, located in the Bangor Opera House located at 131 Main St., Bangor, is the Northeastern-most, professional, year-round theatre company in the country. Currently entering its 47th Season, the theatre produces a wide variety of plays, musicals and educational programming. PTC welcomes over 40,000 patrons each season to its century-old home. For more information, call (207) 947-6618 or go online to penobscottheatre.org. 


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