French Poetry Night held for eighth year

Story by Gisselle HernandezAssistant Features Editor

The French Table and Murray State students studying French hosted the eighth annual French Poetry Night at the Black Box Theatre in Wilson Hall on Nov. 12.

The French Poetry Night began in Hart Cafe eight years ago, before being moved into residential colleges. Last year though, it was held at the Black Box Theatre for the first time.

Every seat surrounding the stage was filled with students, professors and even children by the time the program began at 7 p.m.

Despite the title of the program, performances were not limited to French poetry. A mix of actors, singers and musicians performed for the audience, most of them being Murray State students taking French classes.

However, there was a specific play that involved students from Calloway County High School: “L’accent Grave de Jacques Prevert.”

This is the first time the program has been extended to high school students because of the Fun with Languages project, said Therese Saint Paul, the associate professor of French and the program coordinator.

The Fun with Languages project is a joint effort by Murray State’s Modern Languages Department, International Language Center and Office of Regional Outreach that looks to offer language clubs to elementary schools and high schools.

Braxton Bogard, Calloway County High School junior, was one of the high school students who performed in the short French skit. Although this was his first time performing at the French Poetry night, Bogard is familiar with the foreign language, as he is currently in French level three.

After traveling to France and Greece for a study abroad ambassador program, Bogard said he became obsessed with foreign languages.

“After that point it was connecting with other cultures,” he said. “I said, ‘I want to learn a new language and I want to learn one that’s from the place I’ve been to.’ French was the option that was closest to my heart so I said, ‘I’m going to learn it’ and I dedicated myself to it.”

The main play, whose scenes were divided throughout the program, “La Fete,” was written and performed by FRE 331 students from Murray State.

Since it was the first time they had written a play for the program, the preparation proved to be sort of chaotic, Bryant Powell, senior from Mayfield, Kentucky, said. Regardless of the hectic production, audience members seemed to enjoy the play as the actors fully engaged in their characters.

Although students taking lower level French might not have fully understood the advanced French being spoken, they laughed at the advancement of the plot and the amusing actions of the characters. The scenes were played throughout the program, with students singing, reciting poems or playing their musical instruments in between.

John Secor, former French professor from Morehead State and guest at the poetry night, was given the chance to recite his own French poems. Secor published his French poems in Paris and was signing his poetry books for fans at the end of the program.

Organizing an event that seems to be growing every year can prove to be quite difficult, Saint Paul said.

However, there has been a noticeable change in performance from when the event was held in residential colleges and the cafe to now being held in a theater.

“In the past, people just read the lines off and it seems since we came into the theatre, they stepped up to the expectations,” Saint Paul said. “The students themselves rose to the occasion. The context of the theatre makes people want to be good; they take it seriously.”

Upper level French students who have to participate in the program as a requirement are informed of the event at the beginning of the semester, though preparation begins about a month prior to the poetry night.

The option to participate is open to lower level French students, as well.

For an event such as the poetry night, collaborative work is necessary to carry out the program successfully. For instance, the theater department contributed some acting tips to student actors. There was also assistance with lights and audio.

“When you do something like this you involve everyone, one way or the other,” Saint Paul said.

One of the reasons other students attended or participated was for extra credit. Saint Paul believes that it is much more than that, though.

  “I think learning a language has to be close to reality and to life and I think this comes close to it,” she said. “It’s a way to communicate, not just a way to get a grade.”