World Stages: International Theater Festival-‘Les Souffleurs Commandos Poetiques’ at the Kennedy Center

The World Stages: International Theater Festival took the center stage at The Kennedy Center, March 10-30, 2014 bringing together some of today’s most exciting theatrical visionaries presenting an unprecedented focus on theatre from around the globe. Twenty-two theatrical offerings from nineteen countries, and every continent except Antarctica, are represented in this theater Festival of dynamic stories examining contemporary issues and universal themes. Curated by Alicia Adams, Vice President, International Programming, thirteen fully staged productions will be featured including nine U.S. premieres, as well as four theater-focused installations, panel discussions, two staged readings, and two Directors forums.

Les Souffles Commandos Poetiques (Tokyo Theatre Company KAZE  and Les Souffles Commandos Poetiques). Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage.
Les Souffles Commandos Poetiques (Tokyo Theatre Company KAZE and Les Souffles Commandos Poetiques). Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage.

The delights in this extraordinary assembling of theatrical treasures comprise World Stages: International Theater Festival 2014 – the Kennedy Center’s first theater-focused international festival!

Poetic Whisperings – Review: Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques

There is no stage, the admission is free, and you are the star!

The U.S. Premiere Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques is a phenomenal display of public art and an eclectic theater exploration of performance art that is one of the don’t miss experiences of this year’s World Stages: International Theatre Festival 2014.

France’s Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques (created in 2001), and Tokyo Theatre Company’s KAZE (founded in 1987), make up an artistic collective of five men and five women, dressed in individualized black outfits, some with top hats others with their hair pulled back in a pony tail, all appearing throughout The Kennedy Center’s various site specific locations over the weekend. Using hollow canes, whispering poetic secrets of inspiration in the ears of passers-by, the two innovative companies have collaborated, performing their “endeavor to slow down the world,” since 2007.

“Les Souffleurs” means “the whisperers” or “the blowers” in French. Describing their work as “poetic interruption,” and what they do as an artistic intervention, the Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques provide a much needed escape and a controlled calm to the rigors of the day.

The day of my Poétiques experience, I was greeted by the welcoming avant-garde ensemble with twirling black parasols and lyrical whips of a folding fan as they moved slowly, striking poses, intently observing the hustle and rush of the crowd entering through the doors of the Foyer of The Kennedy Center. People weave in and out walking through the invisible ‘art canvas.’ Most continue with their forward pace, but for those that stop, their senses are awakened and an enriching once in a lifetime opportunity becomes a unforgettable experience.

It was interesting observing the innocent gazes of those who captured the eyes and attention of the Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques. Every child I saw arriving or leaving through the Kennedy Center entrance stopped, enthralled by the silent intimacy of being the center of attention, fascinated by the mystery of rossignols.

The long hollow tubes of verbal transmission are called rossignols, the French word for nightingales. Blown through these six-foot long, black messengers of prose is the hum of spoken word wisdom and the songs of poetry. Experiencing something beautiful and rare, the impromptu actions fight the boring conventionality of every day life.

I love performance art but this was actully the very first time that I felt like I was an active participant creating art. To a great extent, the interaction is whatever you choose it to be. Loving my own special moment, I wonder what secrets are being whispered to others. Support for more original, public art like this performance is very much needed. From what I witnessed this is art that made people feel happy. I didn’t see a person who was engaged that left their ‘personal’ whispering moment without a smile on their face, saying thank you.

Theatre is a place that reveals truth, and ‘reality’offers a freedom of feeling that Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques challenges with it’s unconvential storytelling. This exciting living art installation – using the theatre of poetry as a tool to “transform the world” – is creating spontaneous, peaceful, and meaningful poetic interruptions with people, sealed with a smile and an inspired, kind word.

If poetry is the autobiography life, you only need to experience Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques once to leave eyes wide open, writing a new chapter in your own personal history.

ARTISTS: Nicolas Bilder, Olivier Comte, Ayae Inaba, Helene Lanscotte, Shigeru Nakamura, Mino Shibazaki, Ai Shibuya, Satoru Tanaka, Corinne Taraud, Taichi Yanase.

Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques played March 28 – 30, at various locations in the The Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.

Read Sydney-Chanele Dawkins’ reviews of shows in the World Stages: International Theater Festival:

The Suit.
Tapioca Inn: Incendios.
Death & the Maiden (La Muerte y La Doncella). 
Savannah Bay.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Penny Plain.
Not by Bread Alone.
Green Snake.
Solomon and Marion.

World Stages Festival YouTube Channel.

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Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also serves as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA. Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best describe Sydney-Chanele's approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, 'Modern Love is Automatic' premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated - 'The Wonderful Woes of Marsh' - which is rounding the film festival circuit. In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit,Neil Simon's Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater, Her next producing effort in 2014 is Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky' for Port City Playhouse. Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival,and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She is active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions - [email protected] [Note: Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.]


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