Sarah Brown moved from South Louisiana to Chicago in 2004. There she took her passion and experience in theatre and quickly became involved in various organizations promoting the arts in her new city of not quite 3 million people. During her time in Chicago she was involved with the Fringe Festival and various improvisational theater groups and events such as the Chicago Improv Festival. Perhaps it was ancestors from the LeBlanc or Boudreaux families who called her back home to Lafayette Parish.
Lian Cheramie was a self-proclaimed “army brat.” Born in Louisiana, she moved often over a period of five years including time in Colorado and Hawaii. Her father is from Lafourche Parish and has ancestral lineage from the Fontenot family. Similarly to her fellow actor, Cheramie has particular members of her family who have followed the ancestry and shared information and stories with fellow descendants. Cheramie’s family returned to Louisiana when she was still young and perhaps in a contrasting way to Brown, she chose to live her adult life in Acadiana.
Cheramie and Brown met in the Theatre Department of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2001 when they were both in a production of “Correct Usage and Common Errors,” part of the Deep South Writer’s Conference.
Upon Sarah’s return home, her penchant for both acting and being a producer of events was still strong. She reconnected with Cheramie and through conversation and exploration of their unique, and at times, common, experiences, the concept for “Cajun Face” was born. All this through “Acting Up (in Acadiana)” which is a residence program at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette. Cajun Face is co-written by Cheramie and Brown and features both of them acting and even singing. There is a multimedia aspect to the show in which video interviews from members of the community are played. Themes include families, dating, and leaving or staying at home all portrayed from an Acadian familial perspective.
Brown shares about the title of their work:
Cajun Face is a term that I spontaneously came up with about a year and a half ago. I often have the experience of having people say they know me from somewhere, or that I look familiar, or that I look like someone specifically. I noticed it much more after moving back to Louisiana from Chicago. I did not find that that experience happened to me that often in Illinois. After some reflection, I decided that I had “Cajun Face.” Around that time, Lian and I started to discuss creating a two woman show about our experience being young Cajuns. “Cajun Face” became our default title, which we now really love. The first sketch the audience will see is called “Cajun Face” as well. My character (playing myself) defines the term this way in the sketch:
“I figure that my family is so Cajun in heritage, that I have just become an amalgamation of Cajun features and that I’m not really distinguishable from a large part of the population”
The show brings to light Brown’s reasons for returning home. She yearned for her family, including an infant nephew and wanted to spend quality time with her grandfather. Regardless, Brown was excited and perhaps surprised by what she called a renaissance of creativity happening in Lafayette. What happened in Chicago was a part of Brown’s personal development including that of her theatrical career. She notes an interesting aspect of returning to a childhood home after becoming an adult elsewhere: “It’s a struggle to make sure I maintain myself and not fall into childhood patterns.
It seems that Cajun Face is designed to be a living and breathing piece of performance art. Parts of our interview were noted by Brown as consideration for the show. Cheramie says, “We have other ideas in the works for the next generations of Cajun Face. I hope to tour the show. I hope it continues to generate conversations.
Cheramie has witnessed personally the “cultural investment of many young people in Acadiana” and notes that sometimes young Cajuns struggle with their unique heritage.
November 7, 8, 9 – 7:30 pm
November 10 – 2pm
Acadiana Center for the Arts, 101 W Vermilion St, Lafayette, LA 70501
$12 admission; $10 for AcA Members, Students, and Seniors
Tickets can be purchased by calling AcA: 337-233-7060, in person at AcA, or online at acadianacenterforthearts.org . For more information call 337-739-4273.