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Students perform final French exam

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 9:01 am

Five people sit on the stage in Fraser Hall 4, props and scripts in hand as they run through their final project. As Sam Kopis jumps up from her spot to run from her teacher, she trips over a prop stump and stumbles over her lines as the whole cast laughs along with her.

As finals week approaches, most students are prepared to walk into their classes and sit at a desk for two hours, filling out a Scantron or writing an essay about what they have learned over the course of the class.

However, every once in a while, a professor forgoes a traditional sit-down test and tries to make their final a little more creative. 

Christina Keppie, a French professor at Western Washington University, decided her French culture and conversation students would produce “Le Pique-Nique." The French class performed a series of skits and scenes in 2009 for the first time and an audience of about 150 people, Keppie said.

This event is in collaboration with the Canadian-American Studies Center, the theater and dance department and the classical and modern language departments at Western, Keppie said.

“I wanted to do something different,” Keppie said. “It’s a little less chaotic for the students, because it was a lot of work last time.”

Rino Morin Rossignol, an Acadian playwright, wrote “Le Pique-Nique.” Acadia was located in Canada in the 17th and 18th centures, where New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are now.

“Le Pique-Nique” is a modern play about Acadian culture and identity, Keppie said. Each character represents a region within Acadia with a specific identity. These characters all meet at a picnic and discuss their cultures, said senior Cassidy Lovins, a French and English literature major at Western. Lovins plays a visiting character from Great Britian in the play. 

“The characters all come together to discuss what it is to be Acadian in Acadia,” Keppie said. “It’s basically a discussion of how geography, religion, sexuality and origin determine how they are all identified.”

Keppie chose the play because it is a one-act that is short enough to learn in a quarter, but can still be divided into more roles, by double casting, for the number of students in the class, Keppie said.

The students will perform their final at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, in Fraser Hall 4. Admission is free and open to the public. Rossignol has been in close contact with Keppie, asking her about how the show is going and if she needed any help translating or clearing up any decisions that he had made within the play, Keppie said.

“The playwright is over the moon because this is the first time that an Acadian play is being put on by American students,” Keppie said.

Rossignol wrote a welcome note for the program, translated in both English and French. 

The class rehearsed its play all quarter in preparation for their final performance. Students dedicated the first two weeks of the quarter researching Acadia and doing short presentations regarding the area to become more familiar with the subject matter of the play, Lovins said.

Western senior, Lauren Van, a French major, represents the southeast region of Newbrunswick in the play. 

“The play made more sense when we knew the history of it and knew what was going on and why people interacted the way that they did,” Van said. 

Although performing a play is not  common as a final for a language course, the students don’t seem to mind the change, Lovins said.

“I’m not an actor by any means, so it’s very out of my comfort zone,” Van said. “As for workload, it’s not something that is really stressing me out.”

The biggest challenge was the lack of previous theater experience, Lovins said.

“The students were really nervous at the beginning of the quarter,” Keppie said. “They knew what the course was about, and there was a lot of freaking out going on. They could have dropped the course, but none of them did.”

Although acting is not something these students are familiar with, they agree that having one of their finals out of the way and getting a short break before finals week is nice, Lovins said.

Editors note: This story originally said that this was the second time "Le Pique-Nique" had been performed, when it is the first. The story also said that the performance is collaborated with the French and American studies department, when it is collaborated with the Canadian-American Studies Center.

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