Dallas — Austin transplant Maggie Gallant presents a solo work on her French heritage and adoption. A seed of inspiration hit Gallant after the Paris terrorist attacks, and Liberté, Egalité, Adopteé is the result. It debuts on Friday in the third annual Dallas Solo Fest.
What was the inspiration for Liberté, Egalité, Adoptée?
My show is about my French identity and I had originally called the piece A Fate Worse Than French which I thought was very clever. However the night before my first performance (at an adoption support conference) the terrorist attacks happened in Paris. After that the title felt wrong and was a bit of a millstone so I needed something new for my next round of shows in Austin. I was brainstorming lots of different titles with my husband and when we came up with this one it was perfect. And the funny thing is that the themes of equality and liberty are a big part of the discussion around adoptee rights so this new title is actually very apt. Perhaps I should have just told you that and left out the other stuff!
How did you get started in solo performance?
When I first moved to Austin from England in 2000, I wanted to do something creative. I had been working in corporate PR in London for years and although I loved giving presentations I was bored with corporate life. I saw a posting for a stand-up comedy class at CapCity Comedy Club so I gave it a go and six weeks later I did my first stand-up show. I stuck with stand-up for a few years, mostly open mics and emcee spots but I was at least 10 years older than most of the other comedians and one of only a handful of women. I really wanted to do more storytelling and less worrying about punchlines so in 2006 I decided to write a piece for the FronteraFest short fringe festival in Austin. The show was called Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower and was the first time I'd ever talked publicly about adoption and reunion. I loved the solo show experience and since then I've written three full-length solo shows and a couple of shorter pieces. All have been performed at FronteraFest.
What do you enjoy about the process of writing and performing your own work?
At first, performing was just a function of getting my work onstage. It was the only way that my writing would be seen by people. But gradually, I've come to love the process of seeing something through, from the very rough first draft to getting the piece on its feet and through rehearsals and revisions to the final performance. I also like the relative simplicity of a solo show, it's the theatrical version of running! All you need is a stage and an audience, the rest can be created by the performer.
Having said all that I'm still more of a writer than a performer. I'm not a trained actor and I'd still prefer to sit at my laptop and rewrite a sentence 10 times over than have to rehearse but I force myself to do it because I know it pays off. My best rewrites often happen when I'm onstage and start improvising lines—it irritates the heck out of my husband if he's running my tech.
And then there's also the fact that creating my own solo shows means I don't have to audition. I've done a few auditions for commercials and stage plays and I'm terrible at them. Plus being a Brit the roles don't come up too often and I am appalling at American accents which is why I don't attempt them (sadly the same doesn't apply when Texans attempt a British accent!).
What other projects are you working on next?
I've been working on some 10-minute plays to try my hand at character pieces and dialogue. I'd like to submit to some play festivals this year. I don't have any new solo pieces in the works but I'm thinking about reworking a solo show I wrote a few years ago about the impact of Princess Diana's death. It was a really fun piece to perform and 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of Diana's death. So much has changed about the way that major events impact us and how we respond and I want to explore some of those changes.
How is this play relevant to 2016 issues?
Adoptions and reunions between adoptees and birth parents is in the zeitgeist. The recent TLC show Long Lost Family focused on reuniting adoptees with birth parents and it's been creating a lot of attention around the subject of sealed records and equal access to original birth certificates. Only 19 states have so far granted access or partial access to adult adoptees— Texas legislation was blocked in the last session. The situation is different in England and I have my original birth certificate, with my original recorded name. I didn't realize how lucky I was to have this until I started working on this show.
A lot of people turn to DNA testing to try and discover their genetic history and the easy access to DNA tests combined with social media is changing the search process. I joined a group called DNA Detectives on Facebook and it's amazing to read some of the stories on there.
But there are still millions of sealed records and this country is still far from achieving equality on this issue.
If you had to describe your play in five words only, what would you say?
Crazy true story, funny accent.
» Liberté, Egalité, Adoptée is performed on the following days
- 9pm | Friday, June 3
- 5:30pm | Sunday, June 5
- 10:30pm | Saturday, June 11
» Click here to see our listing for Liberté, Egalité, Adoptée
» To see a full schedule of shows, go here
» See our DSF special section for more interviews, reviews and more