The house lights dimmed and performers shuffled in and off stage as SCAD performing arts professor Vincent Brosseau sat down in the Lucas Theater to talk with District. Brosseau directs “La Traversée: The Promising Voyage,” a multimedia dance piece which details the lives of 20th century immigrants as they make their way to America.
“The performance is about the journey of immigrants in the early part of the century, between 1900-1910,” explained Mr. Brosseau, preparing for the weekend’s shows.
“I’m trying to recreate years of someone’s experience,” Brosseau said. “Reliving that experience from the time from when they decided to live their country to embarking on the boat and arriving in America.”
The production is very close to Brosseau, who came to America 31 years ago. “I am close to the idea of what it feels to be in a totally different foreign country and trying to figure how you’re going to navigate that, though my experience pales in comparison to these people.”
“Basically, when you come to a new place your senses take over,” he explained, recollecting what it was like to come to America for the first time himself. “Even though the trees here are trees, they were not the trees that I knew. The environment is not what you grew up with. And it took me years to make peace with that feeling.”
Then, there’s the issue of language, which Brosseau said is a huge part of the production. “When you do not speak their language, everything is unusual and you have to try and understand people’s body language. Are they angry, happy? You try to connect to words with images or universal understanding, but it’s sometimes not specific. It’s really huge and it’s really complex. When you embarked on that voyage, you went on with so many languages.”
But Brosseau explained that language was not the only problematic part of the voyage. “There’s all this stuff that happened. Infants died on the voyage, and a disease similar to pinkeye. By the time you bought tickets to come over here it would be months and sometimes your relatives would have left. Either they had moved somewhere else or died.”
“But at the same time there’s also really amazing stuff,” Brosseau explained with a smile. “There was this woman who spoke Yiddish and didn’t know a word of English, but brought with her the Bible. She had a little boy who could read and he could recite it for her. So there’s fantastic stories and you’ll see in the performance.”
As he was called away by the busy production team, he turned with a few final comments: “It’s delightful, it’s humorous, it’s fun, it’s dramatic, it’s historical, it’s very emotionally charged. You’ll have to come see it for yourself. And you’ll probably want to come see it twice because there’s going to be so much going on.”
The performance runs Feb. 10–12 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre.Contact Christopher Smith.