Born and raised in Ottawa, Edwige Jean-Pierre is a bilingual actor and playwright of Haitian and Congolese descent. She first came on to the scene with her solo show Even Darkness is Made of Light (dramaturgy and direction by Patrick Conner) at Buddies. Other plays she has written include Saint Bitch or also known as Our Lady of Spills, SOS/MS/ASAP, GOIN4BROKE, The Big Mess and Espoir/Espwa (co-written with Les Héritières de Toto B).
Her plays have been presented at many festivals including Rhubarb Festival and Edgy Women Festival, Hysteria Festival, and she was the recipient of the 2010 Summerworks’ Spotlight Award for her performance in Even Darkness is Made of Light. She is ecstatic to be working with Theatre Passe Muraille on the development of her latest play, La déception m’a ouvert les yeux.
Edwige’s work focuses on political and social issues.
Excerpt from Saint Bitch/Our Lady of Spills by Edwige Jean-Pierre
This piece was inspired by my mother’s experience with anti-Black racism while working in a nursing home in the 80s and 90s.
SANDRINE: (To CHLOÉ, Sandrine’s 8-year-old daughter) So you have 1 hour’s detention tomorrow. You’re lucky it’s just one. She wanted to give you a week’s detention. Yes, I know Jessica called you the N-word and hit you in the face during recess. Yes, she will have detention too. You are going to meet people in life that are not always going to be nice to you. You have to really try hard to be nice to everyone, because it’s the right thing to do. Really? You felt good kicking and pulling Jessica’s hair? Do you feel good now? Chloé Vincent, God did not tell you to kick her back or pull her hair. God would never say that. If someone hurts you or teases you, you go and tell a teacher, the principal, the babysitter, or me. Yes, or the police… or the fireman … yes or even Wonder Woman. You can ask God for help too, you know. That’s what St. Brendan would do. You know I get called the N-word almost every day at work and teased for my accent? Yes, by that mean old lady. Why do I not fight back? It’s complicated, Chloé…
(Light change. SANDRINE and LILLIAN stare at each other, like two boxers in the ring.)
LILLIAN: She has no idea what I’ve gone through. No idea.
SANDRINE: She can’t possibly understand what it means to struggle all your life. It’s impossible for her to understand.
LILLIAN: That’s the problem with people like her.
SANDRINE: That is the problem with people like her.
LILLIAN: Too damn spoiled is what.
SANDRINE: They have no heart.
LILLIAN: No idea.
LILLIAN: I’m tired
SANDRINE: I have no patience left.
LILLIAN: I’ve no patience left.
SANDRINE: I am tired.
LILLIAN: You think you’re better than me?
SANDRINE: You think you are better than me?
LILLIAN: No idea.
LILLIAN: It wasn’t always easy-
SANDRINE: (At her ESL class)
The verb “to show” in the past progressive
I had shown
You had shown
He had shown
She had shown
We had shown
You had shown
They had shown
(The next day… in LILLIAN’s room talking to SANDRINE)
LILLIAN: You show some respect and stop being sassy.
Ever since Gladys moved out… Just because she isn’t here…
You’re back to your old tricks… You don’t fool me. You want
to play games? I know a lot of games, missy. I regret
donating money to the Sisters of Charity. Bringing over
negroes that are lazy and can’t do their jobs properly… They
sing and dance and breed like rabbits. Then they come here.
Don’t work… or go on welfare… or worse they don’t take their jobs
SANDRINE: (She takes a deep breath). Just ignore it and let it go.
LILLIAN: You know Missy.
SANDRINE: Just ignore it. Let it go.
LILLIAN: You’re looking at someone who once donated a $20
cheque to help your kind. I may have even helped you.
But we’ll never know. You think about that.
SANDRINE: Thank you so much, Saint Bitch. (She turns
around and is about to leave)
LILLIAN: Wait. Oh God I… I…
SANDRINE: Quoi? What? What do you want now?
LILLIAN: Can you help me? I seem to have … made an accident. I need some
help to change.
SANDRINE: Someone made a mess. No Canadian nurses at
the moment. I will go find you one. Let me just check to see if
there are any Canadian nurses available to assist you. I wish
I could help you myself, but I can only sing and dance and
breed like a rabbit and I don’t know how to do my job properly
SANDRINE: Please blackie? Please witchdoctor? Please
what? Strange, still no Canadian nurse.
LILLIAN: Help me. Please
SANDRINE: C’est pas vrai. Are you serious? Fine… I will
help you. (SANDRINE putting on her plastic gloves and starts
cleaning and scrubbing)
Ma chère Lillian, c’est drôle comment vous pouvez être bête
puis ensuite avoir le culot de demander mon aide. Je dois
nettoyer votre dégât avec un beau sourire. Et je vous gage
que vous n’allez même pas l’apprécier. C’est drôle, vous ne
trouvez pas ça drôle? Alors moi je trouve ça drôle. Le jour
viendra où vous réaliserez à quel point vous avez eu tord de
traiter les gens, comme moi, ainsi et il sera trop tard. “Aimez-vous les uns
les autres…” C’est tellement difficile, pas vrai Madame Holt?
Bon, vous êtes propre maintenant – comment on dit-ont? Ah oui! Spic’n Span! (Pause)
C’était un immense plaisir de vous nettoyer chère Madame
Holt (She curtseys). Vous devrez m’excuser j’ai d’autres
patients à soigner. DE RIEN!!!
(LILLIAN remains seated, frozen. SANDRINE exits LILLIAN’s room. Exhausted, she replays the exchange between her and LILLIAN)