Susie Morgenstern : Confessions of a Fatsoe
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When Daniel Sanzey talked to me about staging Confessions of a Fatsoe, starring yours truly, I just looked at him and said, “Are you crazy?” I’ve never set foot on stage. I’m no actor. And I’ve got too much to do as it is... But Daniel had already put two of my books on stage, One Day My Prince Will Scratch and Idle Gossip from the Vegetable Patch, both done successfully, with a lot of verve and exuberance. I knew I could place my confidence in him. And in any case, I like to go where life leads me. I also had an ulterior motive I was thinking that he would help me lose my dreadful accent. I had the thought, as well, that by learning 141 pages of script, I could stave off Alzheimer ’s disease. And, what’s more, getting me, at the age of 61, up there on stage isn’t really all that difficult! So I told Daniel I’d do it! He gave me a word of warning, though: “Look, if you agree to do this with me, you’re not going to be running all over France for your author appearances and readings. You’re going to have to really work, girlfriend!” “Yeah, yeah,” I persisted in thinking, “I’ll do what I like anyway.” Actors seem to be having a lot of fun up there on stage. I have newfound respect for actors. What a job!
“Okay, Daniel, what do we do?”
“Learn your lines.”
It’s been four months now that I’ve been trying to learn my lines; by reading them, writing them out, by recording them, by listening to my daughter recite them. Every evening I learn three pages by heart and every morning these three pages evaporate as if my brain didn’t know how to absorb them. Time to panic!
Then we started to work together and I started to have a little more confidence, the lines started coming, Daniel was reassuring. He had found his ideas as director, as is his habit, from keeping things simple and remaining faithful to the text, which for him means, yes, this is theater, but let’s not make a big production out of it. And then we’ll see... if what comes from our hearts will be able to touch yours! One big disappointment, though: he left my accent alone.
Let’s set the record straight! When Susie Morgenstern asked me if I wanted to do a staged version of Confessions of a Fatsoe, I hesitated and I answered that she was the only one who could carry the script. I don’t think there’s anyone better than Susie who could talk to us about HER diet books, about HER mother, about her friend Dan, and her anguish at mealtime!
She took me up on it, to my great surprise! I tried to caution her, that she was plunging into one helluva thing. But Susie is stubborn, she said yes... I’m sure she had no idea what kind of a thing she had gotten herself into... At first she called me every week, saying, “I’ve sold a show in Houston, Moscow, Pessac…” Now I started to get a little mad. What show!? There’s no show! For right now, just learn your lines... work with your words. That’s when I think she realized she had a rough road ahead. She got down to basics, her script, her story, and her confessions. Perhaps I’ll be able to help her tell her story.
The Author and... Actress
Born in the city she considers to be the ugliest in the United States, Newark, New Jersey, Susie Morgenstern takes solace in realizing that Philip Roth and Paul Auster were born there as well. She didn’t give it a second thought when a French mathematician suggested she swap New Jersey for the Cote d’Azur and Nice, where she has lived for 40 years.
She is perhaps the only francophone writer from the United States and has written about seventy books in French. She is one of the most popular children’s book authors in France and she has undoubtedly crisscrossed every square inch of this country to meet her readers. But the readers she knows the best are those in the priority zones for education, the so-called ZEP, throughout France, which have greater freedom in addressing special social and educational issues. She is the queen of the ZEP, having set foot in many elementary and middle schools from Saint Denis in Paris to Saint Denis in La Réunion. Her books have been translated into some twenty languages. She has received numerous awards, including the grand prix for children’s books, the Toten prize and the Mildred Batcheldor Award for literature first published in a language other than English, which was awarded for Sweet Letters from 0 to 10 (staged by Compagnie de l’Artifice, which won a Molière for the play in 2005), and she won a second time for Joker.
She has just retired from the University of Nice, where she had taught for thirty five years. She is currently president of the Children’s Book Commission with the National Center of the Book and has now embarked upon a new venture by accepting the offer of director Daniel Sanzey to stage a production of her book Confessions of a Fatsoe.
In cities where her play will be performed, she has offered to do talks, workshops, or an informal author appearance with her readers.
The writing workshop will have at most twenty participants (children or adults or mixed sessions) seated around a table. Workshops will run for an hour and a half (for one session), up to a week or more for intensive courses. The writer assigns exercises, and the participants complete the assignments within the time allotted in order to then read their work out loud. The participants should be familiar with some of the writer’s work in order to most effectively participate.
During the workshops, it’s never a question of not doing the assignments adequately. On the contrary, there are always astonishing results, which serve as a lesson in humility for the professional who leads the session. Sometimes it’s a way of demystifying the writing process by showing that everyone can write. At other times, participants can begin dealing with ideas of character, style, dialogue and plot. It’s also an excellent time for getting to know yourself and to listen to others. Workshops can be used for teacher training, especially for those who want to emphasize the importance of writing and who hope to find a way to get started in the use of this method. Or, it can be used as writing-oriented recreation for children.
Susie Morgenstern is the author of L’Agenda de l’Apprenti (Daily Writing Exercises for Beginners), published by La Martinière Jeunesse. Ms Morgenstern’s book has 365 writing activities to encourage beginners to write for pleasure.
To access the website of Susie Morgenstern, click here.