On Instagram, she is _jeanne_dark_, sixteen years old, Catholic family, embarrassed by her virginity. Using her phone, she speaks live. From the digital ashes emerge the paradoxes of a contemporary heroine.
On Instagram she is _jeanne_dark_: age 16, Catholic family, taunted for her virginity. One evening in a moment of solitude, stressed out, she uses her phone and goes online to vent her pain, the intimidation she is subjected to, the overbearing parents, the all-consuming rage and tears. It is a moment of release, of excoriation, of self-assertion. The audience follows her posts, commenting in real time on her cries and whispers. Jeanne Dark is alive, vibrant, living in the here and now. Welcome to The Maid of Orleans, version 3.0.
Brought to life by the grace and power of the actress Helena de Laurens, the writer and director Marion Siéfert has crafted a masterful performance. The clout of social media, the public display of intimate, private moments, a disquieting sexuality; but above all, the raw power of unfiltered speech and the inventive portrayal of her demons. The character, placed on the bonfire of social media, is transformed. From the digital ashes of a fragile young girl emerges a contemporary heroine.
Produced by Ziferte Productions + La Commune CDN d’Aubervilliers
Conceived, written and directed by Marion Siéfert
Artistic collaboration, choreography and performance Helena de Laurens
Artistic collaboration Matthieu Bareyre
Set Design Nadia Lauro
Lighting Design Manon Lauriol
Sound Design Johannes Van Bebber
Video Antoine Briot
Costumes Valentine Solé
Make-up Karin Westerlund
Voice Coach Jean-Baptiste Veyret-Logerias
Baroque Harp Babett Niclas
Stage Manager Chloé Bouju
Video Manager Jérémy Oury
Stage Manager Marine Brosse
Developement and support for Ziferte Productions Cécile Jeanson, Bureau Formart
Set Construction Ateliers Nanterre-Amandiers – Ivan Assaël + Jérôme Chrétien + Marie Maresca
Co–produced by Théâtre Olympia – Centre Dramatique National de Tours + Théâtre National de Bretagne – Rennes + La Rose des vents – scène nationale de Villeneuve d’Ascq + Festival d’Automne à Paris + CNDC Angers + L’Empreinte – scène nationale Brive-Tulle + Centre Dramatique National d’Orléans + TANDEM-scène nationale Arras-Douai + Théâtre Nouvelle Génération – CDN de Lyon + Le Maillon-Strasbourg + Kunstencentrum Vooruit-Gand + Théâtre Sorano – Toulouse +Théâtre de Liège
With the support of POROSUS, Fonds de dotation + M.A.C COSMETICS + DRAC Île-de-France funded by Région Île-de-France
Residencies T2GCDN de Gennevilliers, La Ménagerie de verre within the frame of Studiolab
Marion Siéfert is an associate artist at La Commune centre dramatique national d’Aubervilliers, at CNDC d’Angers and at Parvis – Scène Nationale de Tarbes-Pyrénées.
Presented by Hydro-Québec with the support of Institut Français + Service de coopération et d’action culturelle du Consulat Général de France à Québec
Written by Diane Jean
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Marion Siéfert (Aubervilliers)
The writer, director and performer Marion Siéfert developed her first solo work, 2 ou 3 choses que je sais de vous, in connection with her doctoral program in Germany. It laid the foundations of what became her chief focus: an exploration of social media networks, a desire to put the spectator in a position of voyeur, a judicious use of screens. The play was presented at TU in Nantes, and also at the Théâtre de Vanves, the Gaîté Lyrique and other venues.
She collaborated with the director Matthieu Bareyre on two films, Nocturnes and L’époque. At the Wiener Festwochen in 2017 she performed in Les nouveaux aristocrates by Monika Gintersdorfer and Franck Edmond Yao, alongside members of the collective LA FLEUR who hail from the Ivory Coast, Germany, Congo-Kinshasa and France.
She has been associate artist since 2018 at Théâtre de la Commune d’Aubervilliers, where she created Le grand sommeil with the actress Helena de Laurens. The show was presented at the Festival d’automne à Paris in 2018. In 2019, her duo Pièce d’actualité n°12 : Du sale! for the rap artist Original Laeti and the dancer Janice Bieleu received the Grand Prix award at the Fast Forward theatre festival in Dresden. _jeanne_dark_ is a performance posted on Instagram and performed simultaneously onstage. It made its début in 2020 at the Festival d’Automne à Paris, and went on to tour in Angers, Tours, Strasbourg and Orléans.
_jeanne_dark_, which you wrote and directed, is presented simultaneously onstage and on Instagram, and viewers have access in real time to everything that people surfing the Web might write. How does that affect the performance?
In the worst cases, the actress Helena de Laurens does not respond to online comments. That has happened sometimes, especially in the beginning because she was not used to responding quickly or was afraid of being distracted. But she is increasingly able to respond, interact and integrate the comments. For example, one audience was making fun of her. Her retort was, “You know, there are children in my classroom who are just like you.” They then apologized.
What we’re aiming for is to have everything become fiction, so the messages she receives become her fuel. That requires a lot of energy and attentive listening at all times, but she’s getting better and better at it. On the other hand, there are moments onstage when she flips out. When that happens, she ignores the comments. As the show progresses she becomes more and more detached from it. She enters into a sort of lunatic state, plunging into the character’s trajectory. But at the beginning it’s very important to stay connected to what’s being said live.
The audience is most likely familiar with social media and the particular relationships that occur there. What sort of comments do they make?
Sometimes spectators ask if it’s theatre or if it’s real. There are also a lot of remarks about the staging, with people saying that we’re filming her too up close. Some say they don’t understand what we’re talking about, so others respond, bringing the new arrivals up to speed as to what’s going on. People upload the show at different moments. They might come in the middle; they can leave whenever they want. And some people have fun with the premise, because it’s not every day you get to interact with a character.
What I find strange is hearing people say that Instagram is a window on real life, a place that is real, very authentic. But because we’re using it to tell a fictitious story, people are perturbed. It can be distressing, for obviously this girl is not sixteen, and on top of that we’re talking about taboo subjects, things we keep buried deep within our psyches.
Younger audiences might find the subject matter disturbing: sexuality, how others look at you, your body image, parents, religion… topics that might be aggravating. That cocktail makes for moments of fear, because sometimes a viewer might identify quite strongly with what’s portrayed, which is not normally what occurs with Instagram postings.
Does the onstage performance resemble what we see on screen?
Onstage we see Jeanne’s bedroom, made of white paper, framed on each side by two vertical screens so that it looks somewhat like a triptych. What we see onscreen is what Helena’s phone is filming. The spectators see in real time the comments made on Instagram. The actress speaks exclusively to her phone, never to the spectators in the venue. That is the basic premise. For 90 minutes viewers see a girl talking on the phone.
What I find interesting is that in the theatre we can see that she is expending a lot of energy. Helena is a very physical person, both a dancer and an actress who is very much at ease with her body. I thought it would be interesting to see the postures she adopts while her eyes are entirely occupied by the screen. She crawls, she runs, she fidgets. She’s full of movements that are not visible on the screen. Even though she is fixated on Instagram, this is still a theatrical performance.
We did a series of performances without an audience, an apartment version, filmed in a real room that we had set up. Helena‘s acting was focused on her phone, performing only for Instagram. Over 600 people watched it live, and it generated an avalanche of comments. It was as though the spectators had forgotten that the person they saw onscreen was real, that she was an actress.
For them she was an image, and they could do whatever they wanted with her. It was very violent. When it is performed simultaneously onstage, the fact that you can feel a mass of people watching brings the Web surfers back to a tangible reality that is lost on social media.