August 20 – THEATRE
The boarding-school at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre had a modest beginning in 1838, but its pupils staged the first theatrical show as early as 1840, on price-giving day. The ceremony was repeated every year, and on 20 August 1846, before an expected crowd and under a huge tent put up on the play-ground, a play was staged by a troupe considered as the best in the region. In 1875, the bishop of Lw;on was surrounded by 259 clergymen and a crowd of 6000 people: the tent had been enlarged! The repertory at the end of the century drew from the theatrical pieces of two Jesuit priests, Fr. Longhaye who was considered as an emulator of Corneille (Les Flavius) and Fr. Delaporte, a friend ofBr. Hermogene (La Revanche de Jeanne d’Ar:c), and also from the famous plays of the time: La Fille de Roland, by Henri de Bornier; Charles VI, by Halevy.
In France, in all the big boarding schools (Saint-Laurent, Lille, Pont-I’Abbe, and later Bagneux, etc.), in the Institutions for the deaf (with the deaf who could speak), and in the juniorates, theatrical plays continued for a long time to be what they were in the Jesuit schools: an entertainment of quality and a means of apostolate. At Lille, no school in town could rival the dramas of Br. Fernand. Moreover, Brothers invested in the village parish troupes. At Chatillon-sur-Sevre, intrepid Br. Constantin staged in the ruins of the castle La Passion as well as La France en 1793, 75 scenes composed by him.
The same craze in other countries, neighbouring or far away. In Belgium, in the auditorium of the schools of Etterbeek, the former pupils played Agnel, an opera in three acts with words written by Br. Anastase. In Thailand, for the feast of the 50th year of the arrival of the Brothers in 1951, the pupils alternated a drama in Thai, Christians to the lions, a short play in French, The Red Devils, and another in English, Treasure Island. India is fond of its traditional plays, but it also enjoys the modern “Sound and Light” spectacles. Our Brothers have put up many such on Montfort. In the D.R. of Congo, Br. Bernardin had a biblical drama of his composition enacted in Lingala.
Other forms of shows would gradually replace the theatre in France: for example, at Bagneux about ten “Sound and Light” shows of exceptional quality, and at Saint-Laurent, the cinema. From the 1960s, there are no longer the documentaries or religious films shown to the pupils, but good fiction movies followed by debates: this was the great period of cine-clubs. Today, “Cine Saint-Gab” functions like an indepen dent hall and shows films to the 1100 boarders of the Institution.