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Two Become One for Seventh Annual French Play

November 12, 2007

SELINSGROVE, (Pa.) – “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … Astérix?!” Actually, it’s a modern day, Americanized portrayal of the classic French comic book, “La Grande Traversée.” On Nov. 12, Lynn Palermo’s advanced conversation and phonetics class will present “C’est un oiseau! C’est un avion! C’est … Astérix?!” – the seventh annual French play at Susquehanna University.

The collection of skits portrays the zany adventures of a character combining the feisty wit of “La Grande Traversée” hero Astérix and America’s own comic king, Superman. In the original French comic books, Astérix and his sidekick, Obélix, get lost at sea while fighting the Roman occupation and find themselves in the New World. There they encounter Native Americans, Vikings and a strange beast they call “glou-glou.” The adventures in the Susquehanna rendition include run-ins with the Mafia, a French grammar-stealing monster and the paramours of a high school love triangle. In each, the hero is faced with questions of ethnocentrism and stereotypes.

“Each piece has at least two cultures that see each other in stereotypical terms,” says Palermo, assistant professor of French. “The key figure plays a pivotal role in facilitating the evolution of these stereotypical roles, which results in greater understanding of the other culture.”

The plays are written and performed in French as part of a class project Palermo assigns to her students each year. Rehearsals, scene preparation and costume design also are done in French. The process begins at the onset of the fall semester when Palermo has each student propose an idea for a play, based on a particular theme. The ideas with the most support from the class are then developed into full-blown plots.

“What impresses me each year is the enthusiasm with which the students attack the project and the degree to which this project transforms them,” Palermo says.

The plays also serve as a vehicle for community outreach. French classes from regional high schools are invited to attend a matinee performance. Danville, State College, and Keystone Central high schools will be among those attending the event this year. “I see this as a way to build bridges between high schools and colleges in the area, and give kids an opportunity to attend a cultural event,” Palermo says.

The matinee for high school students begins at 12:15 p.m. Nov. 12. A public performance will be held free of charge at 7:15 that evening in Isaacs Auditorium of Seibert Hall.

Contact: Victoria Kidd
570-372-4119

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