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BWW Interview: Florimond Le Goupil-Maier Talks Bringing Theatre Back to NYC with LILIES

Lilies officially opens at The Drama Company NYC on Monday, May 17.

BWW Interview: Florimond Le Goupil-Maier Talks Bringing Theatre Back to NYC with LILIES

Theatre has officially returned to New York at The Drama Company NYC, which just last week began previews for the Off-Broadway premiere of Lilies, or The Revival of a Romantic Drama written by Michel Marc Bouchard with English translation by Linda Gaboriau, and direction by Andrew Benvenuti.

Presented with an all-male cast of 11 actors, Lilies is one of the first, new indoor theater productions of 2021 to be presented inside an Off-Broadway venue (with strict COVID safety protocols in place).

Set against a backdrop of revenge, obsession, and love, Lilies tells the story of Simon Doucet, recently released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. He arranges a private meeting with his former school friend, Jean Bilodeau, now a powerful Bishop. Simon and his friends, all former prison inmates, revisit the harrowing events that occurred during their final year at St. Sebastian's school for boys.

Below, BroadwayWorld is catching up with one of its stars, Florimond Le Goupil-Maier, who playsCount Vallier De Tilly.


I know that previews are already underway... how does it feel to be back on stage again?

The moment we, as a cast, all stepped foot into the theatre together was magical. From the touch of the velvet chairs, to the heat from the stage lights, to the sound of the wooden stage planks under our feet, every minor detail felt like a privilege. Compared to most of the other actors though, this experience was particularly unique for me because, as a relatively new actor, this was my first time on stage with a live audience. I started acting right as the pandemic struck so other than a few short films, my previous acting experience had primarily been virtual, at home, in my bedroom, in front of an audience composed solely of my ring light and computer camera. For this reason, being on stage for the first time at this point in history with an audience that is hungry for theatre is all the more riveting.

What has the response from the audience been like so far?

The audience size for our preview shows has been very promising and their response has been electric. As actors, we are always told not to look at the audience while performing, but I'm sure every actor has broken that rule at some point, and I have to admit, I am also guilty of breaking said rule. It's very interesting to act for a socially distant crowd but from my occasional glimpses of our masked audience, I saw eyes that are beaming with excitement and relief that this theatre is back and the artistic nature of New York is slowly coming back to life. I have also personally received various messages from audience members on social media thanking us for making their first show experience since the pandemic an unforgettable one.

BWW Interview: Florimond Le Goupil-Maier Talks Bringing Theatre Back to NYC with LILIES

I understand that this is a NYC premiere? What can you tell us about what the play is about?

Set against a backdrop of revenge, obsession, and love, the play tells the story of Simon Doucet, recently released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. He arranges a private meeting with his former school friend, Jean Bilodeau, now a powerful Bishop. Simon and his friends, all former prison inmates, revisit the harrowing events that occurred during their final year at St. Sebastian's school for boys.

This show resonates with me on a personal level because it highlights the dangers of religious trauma and homophobia and how they obstruct the evolution of true love between two young men. It took me years to come to terms with my own sexuality, work through the internal shame brought on by society, and ultimately accept myself and accept that I am allowed to love and I am worthy of it. I am honored to bring to life the character of Vallier and deconstruct misconceptions about homosexuality by showing the different ways in which pure love exists.

And the full cast took part in a virtual production already? Has it been rewarding to follow through to the next phase of the play's journey?

The virtual production of the play was shot in late March 2021 in an outdoor space in New York. It was a daunting undertaking at the time due to space limitations, weather conflicts, and filming technicalities, but it was also an inspiring process. We never thought that transferring to a physical off-broadway theatre would be a possibility, which in turn pushed us to be innovative with the physical space in terms of staging and movement. While we did adopt changes to make an outdoor theatrical production conducive for two camera angles, there were no camera cuts during transitions and we kept the ensemble nature of the play, which retained theatrical integrity for the audience.

The journey of transferring off-Broadway has been extremely rewarding. Since Lilies is a play within a play (within another play) most actors are playing several roles and transferring off-Broadway meant we had more time to deeply explore these roles, the relationship between them, and their relationship with other characters through viewpoint and character development work. The biggest reward though, has been the audience's energy and the way its speaks to us as we perform. Although virtual theatre provides a creative outlet for performers and reinforces the idea that art will adapt to any circumstance, moving into a theatre has reminded me that the relationship between actors and their live audience is unmatched. This bond is what drives me throughout every performance and fuels my passion for acting.

BWW Interview: Florimond Le Goupil-Maier Talks Bringing Theatre Back to NYC with LILIES

What kind of precautions are in place to keep everyone safe?

Covid-19 compliance has been of the utmost importance to TDCNYC and The Theatre Center throughout this process. The entire cast and crew of Lilies is fully vaccinated and mask-wearing is mandated for all non-performers and audience members upon entering the space. Following Governor Cuomo's orders, The Theatre Center is operating at a 33% capacity with socially distant seating in the theatre. Audience members have told me they feel very safe in the theatre and I believe that if more people come see the show and realize how safe this process is, they will be more willing to engage with theatre as it keeps opening up in the near future. Re-opening now, while the pandemic is still in existence, is a risk and it is unrealistic to expect everyone to feel comfortable coming back to live theatre, but as long as necessary precautions are taken and the process of ensuring everyone's safety is not overlooked, Lilies is living proof that is it possible.

What are you most looking forward to in continuing performances of Lilies?

Lilies is such a powerful work of art. It touches on religious trauma, mental illness, internal shame, and intolerance, which are issues that queer youth across the world continue to face today, so hopefully it strikes up necessary healthy conversations and awareness. Overall, I feel grateful to have been a part of such a supportive and talented group of actors and I am excited to continue building off of what we have already created. I am thankful to our Director, Andrew Benvenuti, and everyone else on the TDCNYC team for making this happen. In the future, I am curious to witness the evolution of our work throughout this run and hope that many more people have the opportunity to see this beautiful show.


For more information about Lilies, visit: www.TDCNYC.org


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