AT THE SUPERDOME
(New Orleans, LA, USA)
Oliver M. Thomas, Jr.
Former President of the New Orleans City Council
‘Any time you put 25,000 people under one roof [the Superdome], with no running water, no electricity and no information, stories get told. I think it was urban myth.’
Lt. David Benelli
Head of the New Orleans Sex Crimes Unit
‘We were going to go inside the Superdome. I approached two members of the National Guard and they said to stay outside because they knew it was hell in there.’
Briton, Radio Merseyside Presenter,
August 31st, 2005
emerged from the mess of Katrina as the biggest bonehead
involved? No, it's not Michael Brown, George W. Bush, or even
the bumbling Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. The clear
winner is New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who made every
conceivable mistake during the crisis ... A near-perfect record
‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people.’
A Concert for
Hurricane Relief, New York, NY,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Superdome Under Water
Saint-Saëns’play, Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping
Katrina’s Wrath, offers a timely and historically
accurate analysis of the surrounding events of the largest
natural disaster in American history. Taking place in the New
Orleans Superdome in the days just before and following Katrina,
the play examines the life of an intergenerational
African-American family who seeks shelter from the hurricane in
the “safety” of the Superdome.
The traumatic events that ensue for this family are
Saint-Saëns’new play, Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping
Katrina’s Wrath, merges the shock value of Amiri
Baraka’s protest plays with the nuanced analysis of Bertolt
Brecht. Like these playwrights, he focuses on starkly framed
conflicts in order to lead the audience into a growing
understanding of a web of moral and political truths.
Saint-Saëns’work can also be compared to recent South African
dramas because of the remarkable way in which he addresses the
issues of atonement, community forgiveness, and family
reconciliation. Saint-Saëns declines to fall into predictable
formulae of revenge and purgation. Viewers and readers are
instead haunted by the complex ways in which his characters
choose to resolve the
traumas of assault, rape and discrimination. Ordeal at the
Superdome. Escaping Katrina’s Wrath draws on a firm
grasp of several New Orleans dialects, including gang talk and
the mellifluous, elevated dialogue of African Americans rooted
in evangelical Christianity.’
Saint-Saëns certainly brings his scenes to life – disturbingly
and, oddly, reassuringly. Ordeal at the Superdome.
Escaping Katrina’s Wrath is not for the faint of heart.
If all harrowing drama depends on dialogue and circumstance,
then this play fills the bill. Given the ability of the writer
to invoke the sounds, smells, and sensations at the crisis and
in the aftermath of New Orleans’s greatest catastrophe, all that
is missing is for the audience to be sitting literally in a
fetid, flooded auditorium. This compelling play will quickly and
decisively establish the author as a presence in the rising
generation of playwrights. Certainly it will be a long time
before we have another memorable figure like Barbara Carter, ‘a
spirited and noble human being, a tormented soul full of ardent
faith and forgettable sins.’
Gerald Monsman, Professor of English Literature,
University of Arizona.
‘One of the
basic purposes of Latin American author Carlos Fuentes’art is to
keep the past alive and meaningful, so that we never forget that
past and its crucial import on both present and future. Similar
in purpose, the masterful drama by the renowned historian, poet,
and humanist Alain Saint-Saëns, Ordeal at the Superdome.
Escaping Katrina’s Wrath, is a powerful, compelling
four-act drama of one of the greatest natural disasters in
United States history, Hurricane Katrina.
Saint-Saëns’new four act play, Ordeal at the Superdome.
Escaping Katrina’s Wrath, is a play about the enormous
storm and its permanent dwarfing of a Major City of complex
systems into the minute by minute detailing of lives of ordinary
people at its mercy. At first cinematic in its sequences, much
like pictures of the advancing storm itself, by the time the
scene of arrival at the Superdome reaches the scene of arrival
at Gretna, Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina’s
Wrath, reads more like a one-act play of four major
determining scenes. This dramatic device is so successful due to
the strength of Alain Saint-Saëns’unifying main character,
Barbara Carter. Mother, citizen, moral theologian,
disciplinarian, and American, Barbara Carter holds the familial
and community group she leads through the action of the storm
together. A second strength in Alain Saint-Saëns’play is its
faithful use of New Orleans dialect, a language the storm tries,
but fails, to change. The depth of the
author’s research in this area is reflected by a nationwide
sense or undercurrent of its people’s speaking a sublanguage,
deep seeded in its motivations, as it faces a national tragedy
that people of all languages must face when caught in similar
the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Alain Saint-Saëns’play,
Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina’s Wrath, is a
sincere and powerful portrait of the human condition. It is an
autopsy of the mechanisms of social control and their impact on
the psychology of the oppressed. It is also about the
meaninglessness of these same mechanisms confronted with the
cosmic rage of a major hurricane. As evidenced by the author’s
preface, moral order is the first victim of natural disaster,
with policemen looting and hungry people shot at.
Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina's Wrath,
Alain Saint-Saëns describes how
elderly, poor, black inhabitants of New Orleans enter the
Superdome initially with optimistic views. The reality soon
proves to be different. Thousands of human beings, tightly
packed together in the centre of a hurricane, are to become
scared, sick, agitated, hungry, dirty, thirsty, tired, horny,
drunk, stoned ... Indescribable imagery has been put on paper
by Alain Saint-Saëns, who spent a lifetime in New Orleans, and
right now has accepted his responsibility to tell the story of
the ones who could not escape hell on earth.
Bizarre occurrences quickly become a natural
‘way of survival’ when the crowds lose decency under challenging
circumstances. New Orleans Superdome during Katrina was a quick
revisit to Auschwitz, and Alain Saint Saëns wrote it down in the
style that we have come to expect from him. The scenery
described brings back to mind the words spoken by Professor Ian
Kershaw when he concluded his BBC television series on the
Polish camp: ‘We have to realize of what people are capable.’
Dr. Jack de Groot, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
'Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina's Wrath est
une superbe pièce de théâtre qui m'a tenue en haleine du
début à la fin! Cette remarquable fresque socio-historique
permet au lecteur d'imaginer à quel point ces gens - abandonnés
de tous - ont souffert dans la "jungle" du Superdome (et à
l'extérieur). Malgré l'horreur, la pièce, qui met en scène des
personnages puissants et réalistes (comme Barbara Jackson
Carter), s'achève sur une note d'espoir valorisante pour tous
les Afro-Américains victimes de Katrina (ou non), de
l'incompétence des politiciens et d'un racisme perdurant. J'ai
aussi été très impressionnée par la connaissance
et la maîtrise de l'argot de la
communauté noire de La Nouvelle-Orléans que
démontre Alain Saint-Saëns. Son
glossaire m'a d'ailleurs été très utile! '
Dr. Monique Anna Michel, Professor of French, Erskine College, USA
Dr. Alain Saint-Saëns
translated from Spanish to French the novel written by
Paraguayan author, Juan Manuel Marcos,
El invierno de Gunter.
It was published in 2011
by Editions L'Harmattan in Paris (France)
L'hiver de Gunter.
'Le poète, dramaturge et historien francais Alain Saint-Saëns, en une remarquable traduction, a su allier élégance stylistique et richesse verbale tout en restant fidèle au texte qu'il transposait admirablement d'une culture à l'autre.'
Alain Saint-Saëns is Agrégé d'Histoire, Docteur en Histoire et Docteur Habilité from the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail (France).
A former Scientific Fellow of the French School for Advanced Spanish Studies in Madrid, Spain (Casa Velázquez) for three years,
he is Professor of Modern History and History of Spain and the Mediterranean.
He wrote and directed more than ten major books of History in French, English, and Spanish.
An admired poet, Alain Saint-Saëns published in Spanish, Cantos Paraguayos. Poemas de Libertad (2009);
as bilingual French-Spanish editions: Curuguaty (2012),
and Enfances sous les lapachos/Infancias bajo los lapachos (2014).
in 2011 under the title, France, terre lointaine. Poèmes de l'errance.
A praised playwright, Alain Saint-Saëns recently published two plays:
Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina's Wrath in 2010; and Pecados de mi pueblo (2013) in Spanish.
As a translator, Alain Saint-Saëns recently translated:
Paraguayan Juan Manuel Marcos' famous novel, El invierno de Gunter, from Spanish to French;
The book was published in 2011 by Editions L'Harmattan in Paris, France, under the title, L'hiver de Gunter.
and Brazilian poet Aleilton Fonseca's book of poetry, Um rio nos olhos, from Portuguese to Spanish,
published by University Press of the South in 2013, under the title, Un río en los ojos.
Alain Saint-Saëns has written a novel in French, Deux veuves et un ouragan, a story of desperation, love, suffering, and redemption,
based in New Orleans, a city the author has been living in for twenty years and that he passionately loves.
This novel will be published in France in 2014.
Alain Saint-Saëns is preparing a Nouvelle anthologie de la poésie française du Moyen Age à nos jours
in French, to be published in 2015.
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