A French Kiss With an English Twist

Whitehorse is known to have an active French community.

“You guys are everywhere,” some say in a more-or-less enthusiastic way.

Some birds of a feather like to stick to their own and travel in packs. Francophones are no exception. But if you happen to fall in love with an Anglophone, you may find yourself in total English immersion, for better or for worse.

Though it may be a great way to learn a second language, at first you don’t notice how fragile your mother tongue is. Don’t let the accent fool you, only a few months of immersion is enough to start thinking and dreaming in English. Before you know it, you might not speak French for weeks or months at a time. And when you do, it won’t come easily.

Ketsia Houde, director of Les Essentielles, an organization dedicated to helping French-speaking women in the Yukon, noticed Francophones slowly losing their language across the country. She discovered some Francophone women in Alberta who started a Facebook group to practice their rusty French together. This Franco-Albertan initiative inspired Houde to create a space of expression for women who are in similar situations in the Yukon. She came up with the idea of the bilingual, collectively written play, Je parle français and I love in English, which will be showing in Whitehorse on March 21-22 and in Dawson City on March 25.

Houde saw great story potential in relationships between Francophone women and Anglophones. She decided to make this theme the core of the theatre project.

“In my four years at Les Essentielles, I’ve never seen so much interest from the community for one of our projects,” says Houde. “Women would call me to be involved before the project even became official.”

Approximately forty women of all ages started sharing their stories. They were invited to send in written or audio pieces, be interviewed or take part in theatre workshops designed to help collectively write the play.

After months of work on the writing process, Je parle en français and I love in English tells the stories of several generations of Anglophones and Francophones whose lives came together in the Yukon. All based on true stories, the plot explores the humour, complexity and challenges of couples raised in different languages.

The quirky misunderstandings at the beginning of a relationship can quickly turn into frustrations and may blow-up when the subject of children’s education comes around. Under Virginie Hamel’s direction, eight actors, both Francophones and Anglophones, share the stage to deliver this Yukon-based story.

The whole play is subtitled. Parts in English have French subtitles, and vice-versa. It plays is Whitehorse on March 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. at the Old Fire Hall, and in Dawson on March 25 at 8 p.m. at Danojà Zho Cultural Centre.

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