Emmanuelle Delpeche Talks Immigrant Life and Spinning Records
“There is a poetry of the exiled that I want to share.” Emmanuelle Delpech
Emmanuelle Delpech is a native of France who has been a longtime performer, teacher, director and deviser of theater in the Philadelphia area. For her newest theatrical creation, Spinning Immigrant, Delpech brings audiences into the lives of immigrants in Philadelphia. Through audio interviews, and set up as DJ Babtoue, she reveals the secrets, regrets, and joys of those who are from somewhere else. We caught up with Delpech to find out more about Spinning Immigrant and her love of deejaying.
FringeArts: Why the title Spinning Immigrant?
Emmanuelle Delpeche: Well, I am an immigrant and when I thought about it, I was just starting to get interested in deejaying, aka spinning. Also spinning is a sensation, like my head is spinning, and I definitely have felt like a spinning immigrant in many situations. And I know others have too. So it’s a play on word. It’s kind of the essence of the show. I think as immigrants we always navigate different waters, worlds and it’s complicated. It’s like nausea, you actually might not throw up so will never get the relief. You just don’t feel good. You’re spinning on an endless dilemma.
FringeArts: Tell us about some of the steps from initial inspiration to production?
Emmanuelle Delpeche: I have always been an immigrant, and my identity is rooted in the fact that I am French but more specifically that I am a French woman in the United States and in Philadelphia. I meet easily with other immigrants, and I get along with them often quite quickly. We share an instant intimacy, even if we just met. That’s rarer with Americans. Somehow we are united by the fact that we are foreign, and we therefore feel similar things and have a similar eye on American society. We observe people and their habits. We notice differences because we are different. While I am interesting to Americans, I am French, an actor but other immigrants are invisible. They are unknown, and sometimes people don’t even know where one’s country is on the map. I am tired of that. I want people to have a voice, to be seen and to be understood. There is a poetry of the exiled that I want to share with the American audience. It might tap into their own feelings of exile.
FringeArts: How did you start deejaying?
Emmanuelle Delpeche: Deejaying is a thing I went to because I am an immigrant. I don’t think I would have gone there if I was in France. I am not sure why, but being here gives me the audacity to try new things and deejaying is part of one of these things. It’s also ok for a woman who is 42 to do that, nobody questions me, nobody is judging me, people are rather seduced and encouraging, which isn’t always the case in France.
I want to take a trip into people’s hearts and minds and joys and questions. I want to share that with the audience so they might become visible. I am a body for these voices. I want to be more and more intimate with my own struggle and by interviewing people and spending time with their story, I might understand mine better. I also want to make visible intimacy and how that is actually what matters. And when you are not “home,” it is quite hard to find. You seek it, you look for the familiar, the known. I have been here for a long time but it took me very very long to feel safe and at ease. To feel at home again.
FringeArts: Who are you portraying on stage?
Emmanuelle Delpeche: I am myself. And Wonder Woman!!! Well, as myself. I will also be a support for the recorded voices of other immigrants. I am not really doing characters but rather what I call shadow of characters. I am a body that allows the audience to hear and see, but mostly to imagine, feel, enter a different world, and an intimate confession from someone they don’t know. I become them but subtly, I am not acting, I am transformed by the voice, I am at the service of the voice.
FringeArts: What will the stage be like?
Emmanuelle Delpeche: I will be deejaying and doing my own sound. There is a lot of audio in the show and a bare stage. Few elements to create new spaces but mostly the audience is asked to listen and imagine. To follow the words, to get familiar with the person. Then I enter as a body, a support for it. I will be deejaying songs from their collection and mine.
FringeArts: Why tell these stories in this way?
Emmanuelle Delpeche: I cannot do a show with 10 people who are from different places! So I chose to record them and to tell my story as well. I also really like the intimacy of an audio interview. Mixing is what an immigrant does in a way. We have to be in the groove, to start on the same beat, to layer in and out to find wholeness and to create our new music.
In a way, the big question of the show is, how different are we as immigrants? We all come from different places, backgrounds, social ranks, etc. We all came for different reasons but is there sensations that unite us? Who feels the same way in the States though they are Americans (not from a first generation immigrant’s family)?
I also love music. I started listening to French hip hop a lot because I was here; I missed my words, my people, my problems. Music is identity. Music is comfort. “Music is the weapon” of survival. Music brings us home. And home sweet home is not just a saying. It’s a fact.
140 North Columbus Boulevard (at Race)
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Photos: Peggy Baud Woosley