Back in those carefree, innocent days of 2006, I was contacted by Olivier Drapier, an actor- director-writer-translator-and-who-knows-what-else-he-is from Paris. He got in touch with me because he’d read my play Somewhere in Between, and he loved it, adored it, had to translate and produce it with his company La Grenouillère in Paris or his life would be incomplete. (Or something like that. My memory may be embellishing things a little… But only a little.) I was very flattered. One or two short plays of mine had been translated and performed internationally, but this would be the first of my full-length plays to be done. And in Paris! My second favorite place on the Earth after my native New York City. So, what was my answer? Bien sûr!
Soon Olivier and his co-translator (and secret weapon) Nathalie were sending me copies of the translation in progress. I knew just enough French to know that they were translating the play into French. In short, it looked wonderful, and I particularly liked his translation for the title to Entre Deux Eaux, which immediately struck me as a wonderful transformation of the English phrase. Then, before I knew it, I was boarding a plane and on my way to Paris to actually see the production. I had a fleeting moment of disappointment when the play started, and I thought, “My French is just not good enough for me to be able to follow what they’re saying.” Fortunately, I remembered that I had actually written the play, and after that I was able to follow along quite well.
La Grenouillère’s production was basic, with few props and set pieces, but I’d written the play to be performed in a minimal fashion. The important thing for me was that the characters live and breathe on the stage. And that night in Paris, they all came very much to life. Olivier was not only the lead translator and director, he was also the lead. (He may have juggled too… or am I embellishing again?) Nathalie was wonderful in the lead female role and all of the actors threw themselves into their characters, and the audience laughed and laughed. And in all the right places. It was a magical thing to be able to experience my play in a completely different way.
After the cast took their bows, Olivier invited me to come up on stage. I know I said “Merci” and “J’aime Paris.” Then I stumbled my way through thanking the cast and everyone for a wonderful production in my halting French. And here and now, I say “Merci!” again.
But my story isn’t quite over, and this is the story I often think about and laugh, but which I don’t think I ever shared with Olivier. After the show, I went out for a late dinner and drink with the cast to a very Parisian bistro near the theater. I ordered some wine – bien sûr! – and looked over the menu and saw “andouillette” listed. Perfect, I thought. I love that. And so I ordered it. Olivier looked at me. “Are you sure?” he asked. “It’s kind of . . . strong.”
“No, that’s just what I wanted,” I told him. The food arrived, I cut into the sausage . . . and then I put it in my mouth.
I may need to explain: Here in the U.S. we have a sausage called “andouille,” which comes from New Orleans, Louisiana and French Creole cooking. And when Olivier said “strong,” I thought he meant “spicy.” And I love spicy food. But while andouille is a spicy, smoked pork sausage, andouillette, to quote, Wikipedia, “is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odour related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellent to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees.”
I definitely fell into the category of “repellent to the uninitiated.” So, I’m sitting in this Parisian bistro, surrounded by French people, whom I’ve just told that I definitely want andouillette sausage, with a mouth full of . . . what pretty much tasted like a pig’s rectum. What to do? I did what every grade school child does. I cut up the offending meat, moved it around my plate a lot, took very small bites of the sausage along with large helpings of the fries that I also had, and washed it down with gulps of red wine. (Okay, maybe a grade school child doesn’t have the wine . . . or maybe they do in France . . . but you get the point.) I had to eat enough to make a good showing, but, mon Dieu, was that stuff awful!
And so when I think of La Grenouillère, I remember a wonderful production of Somewhere in Between, of making new friends with Olivier and the company, and a fantastic trip to Paris . . . but I also remember the andouillette. And then I smile. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Salut to the late, great La Grenouillère!
Craig Pospisil is the award-winning author of the plays Months on End, Somewhere in Between, The Dunes, and Life is Short among others. His plays have been seen Off-Broadway, around the country, on six continents, and translated into French and seven other languages. A native New Yorker, Craig lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. CraigPospisil.com