“Piecework” to Play St. J. – Stitching Together Franco-Vermont Stories
South Burlington native Abby Paige grew up in a generation of Vermonters that saw the most visible aspects of its Franco-American heritage fading. She decided to do something about it. She spent nearly a year digging into books, listening to oral histories at the Vermont Folklife Center, speaking with members of her extended FrancoVermont family, and meeting North Country community leaders like Celine Paquette, who keep in touch with their French Canadian roots.
Paige’s research and writing resulted in the creation of her new and acclaimed onewoman show, “Piecework: When We Were French” which brings ten vivid Franco-Vermont characters to life on stage. They include a baker, teenager, salesman, genealogist, musician, and the irrepressible housekeeper at Burlington’s St. Joseph’s Catholic church, the first French-Canadian parish in the United States.
Paige’s “Piecework” premiered at Burlington’s Champlain 400 festival, selling out each night and exceeding audience expectations. Theatergoers voiced appreciation for Paige’s poi- gnant, humorous, authentic, and entertaining performance as all ten characters, deeply rooted in North Country culture. Popular demand was so great that Kingdom County Productions teamed with Burlington City Arts to remount the theater production to tour to five Vermont towns. The show will now play the St. Johnsbury School at 7:30pm, Saturday, January 29th—as part of the Kingdom County Presents series.
Now in her 30’s, Abby Paige’s extended FrancoVermont family remains closely-knit but she felt no real need, growing up, to speak French or to draw her cultural roots into peer relations, education, or her interest in theater and writing. When she won a coveted Fulbright Scholarship, while a student at Vassar, she chose to travel to South America where she explored the uses of comedy and satirical theater in postAllende Chile. She then moved to San Francisco where she was a charter member of the popular sketch comedy troupe, “Killing My Lobster.” But she moved back to Vermont after a few years out west, going to work for Kingdom County Productions (KCP) as a writer and actor on Jay Craven’s comedy TV series, “Windy Acres” and his Queen City Radio Hour. She also partnered with Bess O’Brien on KCP’s “Voices Project” and O’Brien’s subsequent film, “Shout It Out.” Paige also impressed audiences in Lost Nation Theater’s 2008 revival of David Budbill’s play, “Judevine.” After seeing “Piecework,” poet Budbill called the one-woman show, “Humorous, gripping, touching…it’s about a lot more than French Canadian Vermonters.”
Tickets for the January 29th performance of “Piecework” are available at Catamount Arts, St. Johnsbury or by calling 802-748-2600. Boxoffice hours are 1pm to 6pm, Monday through Saturday. Tickets are also available online 24/7 at www.CatamountArts.org.
“Piecework: When We Were French” is produced by Kingdom County Productions working in association with Catamount Arts. Support has also been received by the Alliance Francaise, the Quebec Delegation, Boston, the French Consulate General of Boston, The Vermont Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information contact Jay Craven at jcraven@marlboro. edu.
Abby Paige has created a one-woman show featuring ten Franco-Vermont characters.