A Play About Black Women’s Experiences, Met With Violence


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By Laura Cappelle, New York Times

Rébecca Chaillon’s “Carte Noire Named Desire” provoked harassment in France this summer, leading one actor to pull out of a new run in Paris

A scene from the play
The cast of “Black Card Named Desire,” during a performance at the Avignon Festival in the south of France this summer. (Christophe Raynaud de Lage)

One performer is missing from the current Parisian run of Rébecca Chaillon’s “Carte Noire Named Desire,” an arresting show about the experiences of Black women in France. When the actors gathered onstage for a dinner scene at the Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe this week, Fatou Siby’s chair remained empty, and a monologue inspired by her life was delivered instead by a guest artist.

The reason for Siby’s absence? She and other members of the all-Black cast were targets of racist attacks after “Carte Noire” played this summer at the Avignon Festival, which followed widespread protests in France over the police shooting of Nahel M., a 17-year-old of North African descent.

“I need to protect myself,” Siby told the French news site Mediapart of her decision to withdraw from the Paris performances.


According to Mediapart, one male audience member forcefully twisted Siby’s arm as she performed the scene. Others physically hit performers, called them “dictators” and implied they didn’t belong in France. In the days that followed, Siby told Mediapart, an audience member accosted her and her child on the street in Avignon. Since the incidents became public — in a statement, the Avignon Festival described them as “an outpouring of hate” — Chaillon and her team have also been cyber-harassed and become the subject of far-right pundits.

Laura Cappelle reacts to this news.

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