Last weekend, the entire USAC program went to Avignon for the first weekend of its annual theater festival. It was so fun to wander the tangled streets of the old town while performers and playwrights tried to convince people to attend their shows. The troupes would perform songs or skits in the street. Playwrights or single actors would approach people anywhere — cafe tables, corners, outside shops — to give us a small playbill and their pitch. The pitches tended to last 2-3 minutes. I used them as opportunities to listen to French, and although I couldn’t understand much, I discovered that it was a lot easier to just smile and nod and take the playbill.
We had tickets to two shows: The one on Saturday, “The Lobby” was a one-act modern dance performance telling the story of a hotel lobby. There was no speaking at all, just five men dancing to jazz and hiphop. Their abilities were amazing, and it was a fun, energetic performance. Saturday afternoon we attended a performance of Moliere’s “Le Medecin malgre lui” (the doctor in spite of himself). Thank goodness Jen had both read the script and listened to an English version. She filled me in on the plot outline before the show. It was enough to be able to follow the story. It was a farce, with lots of slapstick — watching characters get whapped in the face is funny in any language, I guess. The staging and songs and performers were so skilled and interesting that I was entertained even when I didn’t know what was being said.
Back on the streets after that show, when I was hot, tired, and knew we would be leaving soon, I grew tired of listening to pitches and accepting playbills, so I began waving them off and saying, “Je suis finis” — which translates literally as “I am done.” It seemed a reasonable thing to say, if I said it with a smile. But I got funny reactions – usually laughter — so I figured something wasn’t quite translating. I asked my French Conversation teacher about it today. She laughed too and explained that the French understanding of that phrase is, “I am dead.”