Piecework: When We Were French — the moving and hilarious one-woman show by writer and performer Abby Paige. Based on extensive research and interviews with Franco-Americans, this powerful and delightful performance explores the legacy of more than a century of French-Canadian immigration to New England and how our stories, memories, and secrets make us who we are. History comes in pieces. We stitch them together.
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“Poetic and powerful. Paige has assembled a patchwork of stories into a cohesive, beautiful whole.”
– Seven Days
“A consummate performer [and] a fine writer…Paige has stitched together a fascinating, engaging and gripping quilt made out of French-Canadian memories and history.”
– Burlington Free Press
“Fun, funny…fascinatingly entertaining and authentic!”
– Barre-Montpelier Times Argus
“This is great entertainment.”
– Rutland Herald
“‘Piecework’ delves into the good, bad and ugly of the Franco-American experience.”
– Plattsburgh Press Republican
ABOUT THE SHOW
Written & Performed by Abby Paige
Directed & Dramaturged by Koby Rogers Hall
Original sound design by Damien Bertrand
Conceived through the generous support of
Burlington City Arts & Kingdom Country Productions
DVD produced in collaboration with
Jeff Farber Films
Piecework: When We Were French was originally commissioned for the 2009 Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration in Burlington, Vermont, to honor the influence of French-Canadian culture on the region and to represent the experiences, joys, and yearnings of Franco-Americans.
Between 1850 and 1950, hundreds of thousands of French-Canadians immigrated to the United States. Often traveling by railroad, they flocked to the industrial centers of New England in search of jobs, prosperity, and brighter futures for their children. Some returned home with the fruits of their labor, but many stayed, building churches, schools, and communities, and influencing local culture in ways that can still be felt today.
Yet, like all immigrants, our francophone ancestors adopted new traditions as they adapted to their new home. While Franco-American identity was once defined by a strong connection to Quebec, dedicated involvement in the Catholic Church, and of course, use of the French language, that identity evolved, and continues to evolve with each new generation.
Who is Franco-American today? Many “French” families no longer speak French. Some maintain few ties to Quebec or to the Catholic Church and have few surviving cultural traditions. Yet many also still feel the pull, pride, and importance of their heritage and continue to preserve it through family stories and by clinging to a single scrap of their cultural past: a beloved song, a family heirloom, a cherished photograph, or Meme’s recipe for tourtière.
Piecework: When We Were French began with a series of exploratory interviews with Franco-Americans, who generously shared their family histories and cherished memories. From their contributions, historical research, and her own experiences, playwright and performer Abby Paige created ten dramatic portraits of characters with unique feelings, questions, and secrets about their heritage. Through their monologues, Piecework: When We Were French explores how we remember, what we choose to forget, and how we piece together the present from the scraps that are handed down to us by preceding generations.
NOW ON DVD AND VOD!
After its 2009 premiere, Piecework: When We Were French toured to towns throughout Vermont and New England, finding enthusiastic audiences and creating discussion about communities’ pasts and futures. Now, to make the show accessible to even more audiences and continue those valuable discussions, the show is available on DVD and VOD (video on demand)!
During our 2013 fundraising campaign, more than 100 generous donors stepped forward and helped us to exceed our goal. Their support made it possible for us to record a weekend of live performances at Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, Vermont, and create a DVD version of the show available now to individuals and community groups who are interested in exploring their heritage and discussing their community’s history. Order your DVD copy — or [NEW!] the streamable on-demand version — at the top of this page!
“The preservation of heritage, like translation, is the process through which objects and memories are selected, salvaged, preserved, and recontextualized for new viewers.”
– Sherry Simon
“I actually think that the idea of an individual writer is bullshit. All writers are collaborating. They are all talking to other people. They might go home and write by themselves, but they didn’t create their text alone. All writers are part of a bigger fabric.”
– Catriona Strang
July 11-13, 2009 – Flynnspace – Burlington, Vermont
In conjunction with the Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration
VERMONT TOUR, SPRING 2010
February 11-14 – Lost Nation Theater, Montpelier
March 5 – Whittemore Theater, Marlboro College
March 6 – Town Hall Theater, Middlebury
March 12 & 13 – Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, Burlington
VERMONT HISTORY EXPO
June 26, 2010 – Tunbridge Fairgrounds, Tunbridge, Vermont
SOLO TOUR 2010-2011
November 9 – IBM (Private Performance), Essex Jct., Vermont
November 10 – Southern Vermont College, Bennington, VT
December 10 – École secondaire de Saint-Anselme, QC
January 29 – St. Johnsbury School, St. Johnsbury, VT
January 30 – The Shea Theater, Turners Falls, MA
May 6 – Clinton Community College, Plattsburgh, NY
May 22 – University of Maine, Orono, ME
March 28-30, 2013 – Lost Nation Theater, Montpelier, VT