Jean Genet’s The Maids was my thesis production for my Master of Fine Arts degree in directing at the University of Alberta in 2007.

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by Jean Genet
translated by Bernard Frechtman



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Director’s Notes

Just what was Jean Genet trying to say in his first produced play The Maids (1947)?  Something political?  Something about identity?  Something about theatre?  Nothing at all?  All the above and more have been emphatically suggested many times over.

We do know he did not mean it to be a plea on behalf of domestic servants.  We also know he expressed a desire that men should play the parts.  Whatever else he might have wanted to say (or not say), Genet was far more interested in the fact that theatre is fake than he was in realism.  His plays acknowledge the lie of the stage, and that honesty has made them useful vehicles for exposing certain falsehoods in real life.

Identities may be freely chosen personal expressions, or tolerably accepted so we can function in the world, or even forced upon us against our will; they can empower, weaken, liberate or imprison us.  Their effects are real, but are they not often arbitrary, even imaginary?  An orphan, homosexual and criminal, Genet at first was forced – and later defiantly chose – to survey society from its margins.  From that vantage point he became attuned to the degree to which identity is about performance.   In The Maids, Madame is preoccupied with being a “Madame”.  Solange and Claire are not only trapped in “maidness,” they are blind to a way out of it other than into “Madameness”. …or are they?

Ritual fascinated Genet, and he recognized theatre as such.  He also wanted to bring mystery back to a world that was becoming increasingly explained by science.  In The Maids we witness an unfinished ceremony that finally comes to an end (or near end) three times in succession.  I believe there is something wondrous in the last, mysterious resolution, something that offers a way to cast off the shackles and crutches of fixed identities which prevent our growth.  But it wouldn’t be Genet if it wasn’t also something profoundly disturbing or infuriatingly elusive.  I have my own ideas about it that I hope come across in this production, but I also hope we’ve left enough free rope – enough ambiguity (something else Genet loved) – for each member of the audience to make their own exegesis, swelling the legion interpretations of this play ever further.

Claire: Rylan Wilkie*
Solange: Garett Ross*
Madame: Nick Green
*appearing courtesy of the Guest Artist Policy of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association

Director: Ian Leung
Stage Manager: Anna Wood
Set Design: Robert Shannon
Costume Design: Colin Winslow
Lighting Design: April Vizcko
Sound Design: Matthew Skopyk

Production History

The Maids opened the University of Alberta Department of Drama’s 2007-2008 UofA Studio Theatre season, running from September 19-29, 2007 in the Timms Centre for the Performing Arts

October 20 – 29, 2007
7:30 pm evenings (no show Sundays)
2:00 pm matinee Thursday, September 27
7:30 pm preview Wednesday, September 19

Timms Centre for the Performing Arts (UofA Studio Theatre)
87th Avenue NW & 112th Street NW

$19.00: Regular
$10.00: Senior/Student
$5.00: Preview, September 19

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