Presses Universitaires du Nouveau Monde







(New Orleans, LA, USA)

ISBN: 1-889431-87-7

Katrina washed away a lot of veils and took a lot of face masks off. Your politics cannot be bigger than your humanity. And in this case, we didn't need politics. We needed humanity.’

                                    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.’

Mike Brocken

Briton, Radio Merseyside Presenter,

August 31st, 2005


 ‘Which politician 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 for incompetence.’  
John Leo,
Nation and World, September 21st, 2005

 ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people.’

Kanye West,

A Concert for Hurricane Relief, New York, NY,
September 2nd, 2005


                                                 TABLE OF CONTENTS

-         Table of Photos:                                                  

p.  4

        -      Table of Contents:                                               

p.  5

        -      Quotations:                                                          

p.  6

        -      Author’s Preface:                                                

p.  7

        -      Characters:


        -      Reviews:




         Act I: THE SHELTER                                      


        -      Picnic at the Superdome                                     


        -      Katrina Strikes at the Dome                               


        -      Abandoned in New Orleans                                




-         Act II: THE ORDEAL


        -      Rape in the Restrooms                                      


        -      Lord, Have Mercy on Me!                                


        -      I Will Stand Up for My Daughter                      




-         Act III: THE ATONEMENT


        -      The Sky is the Limit                                         


        -      Death in the Superdome                                   






        -      Free At Last                                                      


        -      The Sorting                                                       


        -      Get the Fuck Off the Bridge!                           




        -      Glossary:                                                             


        -      Bibliography:                                                     


        -      Photos:



Superdome Under Water
Photo: Eric Gay/AFP



‘Alain 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 life-changing.
            As a native New Orleanian and having two family members displaced by Katrina, I find that Saint-Saëns’play not only captures the horrific incidents surrounding the hurricane but also debunks stereotypes about those most affected by the hurricane’s aftereffects. Saint-Saëns portrays those New Orleanians as moralistic, family-oriented, and possessing a steely determination to hold on to those values during a time of great adversity.   Alain Saint-Saëns’play, in essence, holds all of us accountable for what happened in the Superdome during the summer of 2005.’

                                                   Dr. Denise Shaw
, Professor of English Literature, University of South Carolina.

Alain 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.’
                                            Dr.Thomas Trzyna
, Professor of English Literature, Seattle Pacific University.

‘Alain 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.’                                    Dr. Gerald Monsman, Professor of English Literature, University of Arizona.

As the Haitian catastrophe reminds us, once nature unleashes its savage power against mankind, humanity and order are in jeopardy.  With down-to-earth characters and simple but sensitive prose, Alain Saint-Saëns gives a voice to the most powerless victims of Katrina, those who could not evacuate before the hurricane hit.  With hopes crushed and left at the mercy of thugs and petty gansgsters, a lower-class African American family finds itself trapped in the jungle of the New Orleans Superdome. Through their ordeal and their struggle to survive Saint-Saëns points a critical finger to the law enforcement system, the local authorities, and the national government, revealing how they turned a blind eye on the most simple needs of helpless men and women and failed to protect basic human dignity. The Carter family’s courage, loving solidarity, and moral stamina movingly demonstrate the persistence of the human spirit in the face of moral corruption, racism, and adversity.’                                  
                                          Dr.Véronique Machelidon, Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, Meredith College.

‘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.
ëns, who writes from the perspective of one who has lived in and loved the proud, fabled city of New Orleans and its marvellous people, writes boldly and movingly of the impact of Katrina and its aftermath on the lives of the members of an Afro-American family in flood-ravaged New Orleans, and creates characters who are all unforgettably etched.  The determination to succeed by the  victim, LaKeshia, the courage and selflessness of the leading character, the formidable mother Barbara Carter, the heroic life and tragic death of the grandfather, all demonstrate the victory of the Afro-American family not only over the devastating forces of nature, but the monstrous forces of criminality that go unchecked in the Superdome, intended as a  place of refuge but that degenerates into a hellworld.
Ordeal at the Superdome, Escaping Katrina's Wrath, eloquently affirms through its biblical structure of Flood and Devastation followed by Apocalypse and Redemption, the desperate need for compassion, brotherhood and solidarity after catastrophic destruction, whether it be in New Orleans or Haiti or the Indian Ocean tsunami. Saint-Saëns’remarkable play constitutes a poignant, eloquent plea for social justice, racial tolerance, communal action, and family unity.
The drama is a stirring portrayal of one family’s determined, indeed unrelenting struggle against seemingly insurmountable affliction, and ends on a note of glorious celebration. The presence of Martin Luther King, Jr., his nobility, courage, and idealism, haunts this powerful play of suffering and triumph, of violence, brutality, and forgiveness, of an impoverished and repeatedly afflicted but stalwart and indomitable family, who, despite everything – poverty, assault, separation, the death of its patriarch – not only survives but triumphs over adversity. We look forward to a New Orleans premiere of this drama of anguish and renewed hope, of death and Resurrection.’
                                            Dr. Lanin Gyurko, Professor of  Cinema Studies, University of Arizona.

 ‘Alain 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 circumstances.          
     Dr. Jean-Charles Jeffrey Wohkittel, Poet and Playwright.

‘Dedicated to 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.                         
           This erupting violence escapes even the power of discourse, and the play is aimed at expressing this general confusion, while celebrating the absurdity that it generated. Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina’s Wrath portrays Katrina as the apocalypse that preludes a rebirth; as a New Orleans politician said, Hurricane Katrina ‘washed away a lot of veils and took a lot of face masks off.’ The reader is invited to discover an emerging world, while connecting with the Other from a new perspective. Alain Saint-Saëns, with this extremely well-written play, delivers a thought-provoking masterpiece.’

Abderrahman Beggar, Professor of  Comparative Literature, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada.

          'In 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 well-known realistic 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.'

Rubén Bareiro Saguier,
Ancien Ambassadeur du Paraguay en France,
Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur.



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).

book of poems in French, was published

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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