original play by Jean Bouilly (1799); English translation (1870)
MEET THE AUTHOR: Jean Bouilly passionately expounds on why (in his words) he was inspired to pen L'ABBE DE L'EPEE.
In the epicenter of the Deaf world, L'ABBE DE L'EPEE is resurfacing for its American premiere after being lost to time. The play was last produced in France during the 19th century, and is a mystery-melodrama in which l'Abbe de l'Epee, known as "the father of Deaf education," plays the hero. The plot? The perpetually-celebrated L'Epee goes to Toulouse on a noble quest to restore an orphaned Deaf-mute found off the streets of Paris to his rightful place as immediate heir to ancient royalty, the Earls of Harancour.
L'EPEE was written in 1799 by Bouilly, a product-of-his-time hearing playwright with extremely limited perceptions of Deaf people, 10 years after the actual L'Epee's death and the birth of the French Revolution. In its day, it was the second-longest running play in Paris, and it is alleged that Napoleon and his wife Josephine attended the second performance.
The Gallaudet production will SEEM like a historically accurate period piece, but it is actually a highly satirical, 21st-century Deaf take on Bouilly's play, alluding to (and incorporating) Deaf identity politics, Deaf education paradigms, and even recent controversies sparked by relevations of the casting of hearing actors as Deaf characters in theatre and film.
Georgetown University theatre students, under the direction of Susan Lynskey, will be providing the voices for this production.