“Instagram only prolongs the totally obsessive relationship that Catholicism maintains with images: in religious paintings, as on Instagram, you have to arouse desire without ever showing a nipple or a penis, explained, in September, the young director Marion Siéfert at the Festival d’Automne in Paris. We must respect prohibitions and rules of modesty while leading the viewer to adore the image and what it represents. ” So Jeanne D’Arc, today, is called _jeanne_dark_ on social networks. From her room in Orléans, live on Instagram, the teenager ends up confiding in complete privacy to her very many followers: she is 16 years old and does not like her pussy at all, moreover look at the shape it is when it’s molded. Suddenly, she is terrified: it is sure, the students of the high school are right to harass her, with the face she has, with her catho side stuck, she will remain a virgin for eternity. Hell. It is the story of a young girl, caught like any teenager, in indemitable shackles and who seeks tools to emancipate herself. At other times, some would have advised him to go to war or to do theater. She, chose another scene to confess and, from there, come true: Instagram.
Read also “Jeanne Dark”, a teenager at the digital stake
Played by the actress Helena de Laurens, since the beginning of October, both for the space of the theater, but also that of the Web simultaneously, this very curious dual-media performance is the only one able to play with dignity in full confinement. . Many pieces are currently filmed in empty rooms and broadcast live stream for social networks. But far from these devious versions, _jeanne_dark_ is unique in that it was entirely designed for a social network and all its modalities of interactivity (live comments, emoticors, potions, insults and smileys). Ultra unbridled intimate diary, introspective and initiatory journey of a teenager towardsempowerment (as Beyoncé would say), the show is normally filmed on a cell phone from a theater stage. Since confinement, he has been able to find the means to adapt to continue the tour – an opportunity to multiply the followers, perhaps future spectators in the theater, who sometimes have nothing of the usual profile of “subscribers”. Libé spoke with his brilliant director.
Your show on and about Instagram, _jeanne_dark_, was born this fall. One would think it was designed on purpose to adapt to our times of confinement …
While not at all! I thought of this device before the pandemic and the theaters closed. Contrary to what one might think today, this creation is therefore not a response to the health crisis, even if its device allows us to maintain performance dates. It is a work that I imagined both for a stage / room space and for Instagram, simultaneously. The spectators in the room see a teenage girl absorbed by her image, filming herself on a mobile phone to make a live. The screen of his phone appears on two giant screens, and we see the comments left by the followers of the _jeanne_dark_ account. I think this is the first time that there has been a show designed for Instagram, in a continuation of 1h45 of live. Usually, there are small, humorous one-minute video thumbnails. Here, the type of skill and interaction is an integral part of the story: the metamorphosis of a teenage girl, who takes power as she speaks.
The actress Helena de Laurens, who plays “Jeanne”, will be live three evenings this week. Will it be filmed from the stage of an empty theater?
Not at all, from the room of an apartment loaned by the Théâtre de la Commune d’Aubervilliers, which is the co-producer of the work. The piece has just been created, we were on tour. Considering its device, it seemed unthinkable to us not to adapt the experience for the 4,000 people who now follow the account of “Jeanne” on Instagram. We therefore proposed to four theaters (the Arles theater, the New Generation theater in Lyon, the Tulle National Stage and the Liège theater) to pool their forces in order to be able to carry out an adaptation, from a room. For me, the space of the theater only goes with its audience. If the hall is not inhabited, I have no interest in playing in front of it. It turned us on quite a bit, actually. We arranged the bedroom with scenographer Nadia Lauro, so as to recreate an abstract teenage bedroom. It is not illustrative with posters of the stars of which Jeanne would be a fan, but a more strange intimacy space, with very thick white carpet.
Have you considered the paid live-stream format with these theaters, as we see increasing on social networks? And by the way, why Instagram and not Facebook Live?
Oh no, we did not consider paying at all. It must remain super accessible. This device was precisely a means of opening wide the doors of the theater, so it is not to recreate a new airlock. Then, Facebook is not the social network for young people. To portray a 16-year-old girl without mentioning Instagram, that seemed unthinkable to me. And I chose this social network for the type of audience to which it gives me access. There was hope to reach more the youth of today.
And you touch them? Are there many, these teenagers, to connect to the lives of “Jeanne”?
Yes and no. It takes time, obviously. At the beginning, the followers of “Jeanne” were mainly people who already know my work but little by little it diversifies. Many middle school and high school students came, and as Instagram is a tool that they master much more than us, they also took control of the life of the play … Little by little, word of mouth from the networks social started to function. And we started to see that a fairly influential group of American rap fans were following us, for example, and had really liked the play, so it’s starting to come out of the usual circuits of public theater.
What kind of feedback do you get from these young spectators?
What comes back is that they really like the interactive side, being able to leave comments and have the character respond to them. The live of “Jeanne” is almost an Instagram hack but there is no ambiguity for a long time: the followers quickly understand that they are in front of a fiction. Most, on the other hand, often take a while to realize that their comments are appearing on the big screen in front of a theater full of spectators (well, normally). Afterwards, in relation to the character of “Jeanne”, what comes back is the great ambivalence of feelings towards her, which is quite normal since we are trying to restore all the contradictions of the social network, of the use made of it by teenagers, of the relationship to intimacy, to masks and to unveiling, to metamorphosis, to the invention of oneself. It is ultimately a very uncomfortable piece, which speaks a lot about taboos linked to sexuality in particular, a straitjacket from which the teenager tries to emancipate herself in a gesture that is both very liberating and very embarrassing! In this, we understand that the live is not at all realistic because Jeanne goes very far in the intimacy. There is a lot of discussion around the framing since the character gradually becomes very, very uninhibited.
For “Jeanne”, who is harassed at school, Instagram becomes what theater was before, the place of catharsis …
She takes Instagram as her theater space. She makes it a place where speaking out becomes liberating. I thought a lot about rapper Eminem, when I created the piece. Someone who starts from his situation of humiliation and who, through rap, goes beyond social stigma, reverses the insult and returns the dirt. In the play, there is the question of having the last word.
It is a play that speaks a lot about the weight of religious education, here a Catholic education.
Yes, and it was interesting to see the degree of identification, very strong, of the teenage spectators of Muslim faith. But also teenagers raised in an atheistic culture, who wonder about the place of spirituality. I met a lot of young girls for the creation of the play and the fact of talking about the weight of religion, for once from the Catholic religion, relaxed the dialogue a lot. The play is based on my memories as a teenager. But the starting point is also my previous piece, For sale!, interpreted by two young girls in full introspection. Inside, Laetitia, who is a rapper, said speaking about me: “She’s white, she doesn’t come from the same background as me, I can’t decipher the emotions on her face.” I wanted to try my hand at the same unveiling that I had asked them to do. And also speak from this “white world” from which I come.
The night we saw the play, the comments were mostly benevolent …
Ah, it really depends on the performances. There were also haters, trolls. And the actress, Helena de Laurens, must be able to react on stage to these comments too. Afterwards, there are also some followers who come back to several performances, who talk to each other, recognize each other, write when they are hungry and go to eat pasta …
Are you curious about the few virtual theatrical experiences that have arisen with confinement?
It interests me when the digital tool is part of the concept. But I am more skeptical of the recordings, when the pieces are filmed in a monumental way, with this classy, museum side, in a profusion of means, for some. The show is not just what happens on stage, it is also the energy of a room, the very slight sensation of taking a risk. The recordings are devouring in terms of energy and resources, it only concerns an audience of hyper aficionados, or at a pinch of researchers, but it is completely beside the point, in my opinion, if the ‘we hope to reach other spectators.
November 18, 19 and 20 at 8:30 p.m., from the Instagram account @_jeanne_dark_