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The Le Théâtre Guignol World Wide Web homepage was last updated in March of 1996.
The mission of Le Théâtre Guignol (LTG) is to encourage and promote the study of French language and culture through the traditional art of French Guignol puppetry. Guignol puppet plays are presented at schools, cultural gatherings or private parties.
Le Théâtre Guignol was created to fill the need for educational French language and cultural entertainment aimed specifically toward the middle, junior high, and high school French student. By combining the stimulating and amusing attributes of puppet theater and slapstick comedy, a presentation by Le Théâtre Guignol allows students to experience a fundamental French cultural experience while challenging themselves to follow and understand French dialogue. In addition, the use of preview materials which are designed to prepare the teachers and students so they can thoroughly enjoy the comedy which Guignol has been providing to children and adults since 1808.
A unique theatre experience in the United States, Le Théâtre Guignol uses authentic puppets and scripts to bring a small and entertaining bit of France into the classroom.
LTG typically presents two puppet shows during a single performance. The first is performed in French and is intended to provide students with an opportunity to exercise their listening and French comprehension skills. The second show is given in English and is intended to allow the students to relax and enjoy a common cultural experience of France.
Before the first show, Ken and Gretchen Davidian introduce themselves, LTG, and the character of Guignol.
Between the two shows, a lecture on the history of Guignol and the Guignol theatre is given. The cultural signifigance of certain characteristic actions found in Guignol puppet plays (e.g., stick hitting) are discussed.
After the second show, a question and answer session is conducted. Ken and Gretchen Davidian answer questions about their personal background, their background in French, about puppetry, and about Guignol.
The total time required to present the two shows, the introductory speech, the history lecture, and the question and answer session is approximately 90 minutes.
Special requirements can be accomodated by eliminating any portion of the standard program. Single shows can be presented.
All Guignol plays presented by LTG are authentic French Guignol puppet plays. Collected from a variety of sources, LTG has approximately 90 different Guignol puppet plays in its library.
Plays which are presented by LTG to younger audiences are screened for appropriateness based on the amount of references to alcoholism and the number of scenes of stick hitting.
All music used in LTG puppet plays is based on the authentic scores given in the puppet play scripts and is adapted and arranged by Ken Davidian. Most of the songs are based on melodies of traditional, French nursery rhymes found in the public domain. Typically, the lyrics have been modified in the scripts to fit the plot.
Preview materials consist of two volumes covering a historical overview of Guignol puppetry and the script of the French play to be performed. Preview materials are included in the price of the performance.
In the historical overview document, a brief history of Lyon is given followed by an extensive treatment of the history of Guignol and Guignol theatre. This document is entirely written in French and is composed of referenced excerpts from authoritative french texts and encyclopedias.
The second preview document is provided as a tool for the instructor to use with their class in preparation for the performance to be given by LTG. Sections of this document include: a synopsis of the French play both in French and in English, a fully annotated script (noting the plays on words, the use of bad grammar, the made-up words, the cultural references, etc.), a vocabulary list without translation of all the words used in the play (except for articles, personal pronouns, etc.), a second vocabulary list including translation, suggested exercises, and a list of references.
The key personnel of LTG are employed full-time and perform Guignol puppet plays during their vacation time.
Ken Davidian has been studying French since 1975 when he visited France for the first time. Since then, Mr. Davidian has accumulated approximately one year in France (primarily in Paris and Strasbourg) in seven separate visits.
Mr. Davidian received a Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the Ohio State University in 1983 and a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1987. Mr. Davidian is employed full-time at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Gretchen has been studying French since 1989. Ms. Davidian has accumulated approximately two months in France in three separate visits to that country.
Ms. Davidian received her Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science from the Ohio State University in 1985 and her Master's Degree in Computer Science from Cleveland State University in 1988. Ms. Davidian is employed full-time at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
LTG transports its facilities to any performance site specified by the sponsor. Typically, LTG performs in school auditoriums, classrooms or multipurpose rooms. LTG facilities consist of the puppets, theatre, scenery, set pieces and props, and light and sound systems.
The puppets used by LTG are authentic, professional puppets made at L'Ateyer de Guignol de Lyon in Lyon, France. They have been specially made for LTG by the proprietors of L'Ateyer, Geneviève and Gilbert Pavaly. Currently, the "cast" of eight characters includes: two Guignols, Gnafron, Madelon (Guignol's girlfriend/wife), Toinon (Gnafron's wife), le Gendarme (the Policeman), Père Noel, and Cassandre.
The LTG theater is a traditional, overhead, three-tiered, cloth covered, hand-puppet booth theatre, with two curtains and dimmable front and back lighting.
Assembled, the theater booth measures 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 8 feet 7 inches high. Side wing curtains increase the width of the theater to approximately 12 feet. Disassembled and collapsed, all the theatre components fit easily into a mid-sized hatch-back car.
Background scenery used by LTG was custom ordered and painted by graphic artist Anton Yeranossian. Two scenes are depicted: the Lyon street corner where Guignol was created (outside the Café du Soleil), and a room interior.
Set pieces, props and special effects used in all LTG shows were designed, painted, constructed or purchased by Ken or Gretchen Davidian.
Illumination of the theater and sets is accomplished with two banks of lighting. The front lighting is comprised of two 150 watt flood lamps set on the end of a 5 foot boom which extend approximately 3 feet in front of the playboard from the top of the proscenium arch.
Backstage lighting as accomplished with two pairs of 100 watt clip-on desk lamps situated in front of the background scenery but behind the second tier of curtains.
Both sets of lights are controlled by 600 watt capacity rheostat (dimmer) switches in individual circuits. Operation of the LTG lighting and sound system requires at least one grounded electrical outlet.
Special lighting effects, such as strobe lighting, are used when called for in the staging of a play and comply with all theatrical safety standards.
The sound system used by LTG provides clear amplification of live and recorded material in the show. This system features a 40 watt, 4-channel amplifier, 2 high-impedance speakers with stands, 2 high-impedance headset microphones, and a standard audio cassette tape deck.
Operation of the LTG sound system requires at least one grounded electrical outlet (which can be shared with the lighting system).
Special sound effects, such as breaking glass, are used when called for in the staging of a play and comply with all theatrical safety standards.
LTG is a member of the following professional puppetry organizations:
As a member in good standing, LTG receives newsletters and periodicals which are published by each of these organizations. Review of these journals and newsletters allows LTG to remain au courant (up to date) with what is going on in the puppetry circles which are covered by each organization.
Pricing for LTG performances is based on many factors, primary among these being the distance we must travel to perform the show. Other factors include the number of people in the audience.
A specific price quote for a given performance can only be gotten by talking to Ken or Gretchen Davidian. For more information or to receive a price quote for a specific performance, please contact Ken or Gretchen Davidian.
For more information about how to schedule a performance, please contact Ken or Gretchen Davidian.
LTG carries liability insurance which covers any damage done by LTG to anyone or anything during a performance.
In French: Le Matelas de Madame Guignol (Madame Guignol's Mattress)
In English: The Box of Candy (translated and adapted from La Boite de Dragées)
The season opened with a performance for Le Cercle Français, a French cultural group in Cleveland, of La Farce du Cuvier performed with the puppets from Lyon.
On 12 February 1993, LTG performed La Farce de Maître Pathelin for the Kent State University chapter of the Alliance Française. This is the only time this show was performed before it ran regularly in the third season, beginning in September of 1994.
In French: L'Enrolement de Guignol
In English: The Box of Candy (translated and adapted from La Boite de Dragées)
In French: La Farce de Maître Pathelin (a Guignol adaptation of the classic farce)
In English: The Terrible Cold (translated and adapted from La Rhume Carabinée)
In French: Untitled - an original piece where Guignol is a waiter at a café. This play is designed to include a lot of interaction with the audience in French!
In English: Untitled - another original piece, but this time, Guignol is working at a fast food restaurant! This play is full of fun things and special effects!
Gnafron was created in 1808 by Laurent Mourguet to replace his partner, Père Thomas, who was not reliably attending rehearsals and performances. Gnafron was created in the image of Père Thomas and retained many of his mannerisms, namely a love of drinking.
Guignol was created between 1810 and 1812 by Laurent Mourguet. Supposedly, Guignol was created in Mourguet's own image.
Laurent Mourguet is the man who created Guignol in 1812. He was born in 1769 and worked in the silk industry in Lyon. By 1799, he was married, had 10 kids, and was laid off due to an economic recession in France at the time. To make ends meet, he became a dentist. To attract customers to his chair, he began performing Polichinelle puppet shows with a friend, Père Thomas.
Père Thomas, whose real name was Gregoire Ladré,was Mourguet's assistant. After Thomas was fired for excessive drinking, Mourguet base the image and character of Gnafron upon him in 1808.