French Theatre Professor Stars in Off-Broadway Play

From left to right: Godec, Moustafa, O’Brien, Thome.


From left to right: Godec, Moustafa, O’Brien, Thome.


Artist-in-Residence of the Fordham Modern Language and Literature Department Hélène Godec recently starred in a local production of Jean Genet’s “Les Bonnes” (The Maids).  Working as both an actress and a French professor at Fordham University, she had the unique opportunity to perform in this experimental production of the provocative play.  In addition to playing one of the principal characters, Godec helped three of her students attain one-credit internships for their work with  the La Mama Theatre, where they performed jobs that enhanced the viewing experience for non-French speaking audiences.

Genet’s play follows two maids whose fantasies about revolting against their master start to take form upon his arrest.  Godec became involved in the experimental production about the unraveling of family and class conflicts after she was approached by her friend, producer and actress Laura Townsend. Townsend introduced Godec to director Oliver Henzler and musical composer and cast member Cloe Xhauflaire. She participated in a week long workshop before deciding to join the project.

“It has been weeks of rehearsal to develop the physical quality of our characters and to create a strong ensemble,” Godec said. “The text is very poetic and symbolic and it was necessary for us to work on the play in a very visceral way to bring this story into our contemporary world.”

Godec began her career in Paris and has been in the business for 15 years working as an actress, a professor of theatre and a consultant in public speaking.  She teaches a French Theatre and Performance course at Fordham, where acting, history, reading, theory and analysis of major contemporary playwrights combine  to create a class designed to encompass French language and public performance.  In addition, Godec instructs a class on French business culture (that covers bi-cultural business ventures) and runs a weekly atelier, “Les ateliers du mercredi” that is open to all students for French theatre and public speaking.

Godec not only engages students in a classroom setting, but also in the workplace with hands-on experience.  She opened up opportunities for Mariam Moustafa, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’18, Lucy O’Brien, FCLC ’19, and Ellen Thome, Fordham College at Rose Hill, (FCRH) ’20.  Though each girl varies in specific areas of study, all three are French majors that received word of the chance to intern for the show.  They worked as translators, running English captions for audience members unfamiliar with the show in its native French.  O’Brien explained, “Mariam, Ellen and I wrote out an English translation of the show, drawing from the French script and two English scripts…[making] a new translation, as conversational as possible.”

“This experience taught me so much, such as working under pressure and taking quick actions,” Moustafa said.  “For example, when the actors skip lines while we are moving the slides of the PowerPoint with subtitles, we should be able to find the right slides with the right subtitles as quickly as possible.”

“I’m very glad for this opportunity to work with such a challenging piece of literature,” Thome agreed.  “Even though I’ve gone over the play so many times, I find new things watching each performance.”

Though the show’s run ended on March 19, Godec has no plans to slow down.  She is currently working on a production of “Advice to a Young Bride” by Marion Aubert, a dark comedy about married life in contemporary society.  She is immensely grateful for the opportunities she has, calling New York a “multi-cultural city” with “a space for an international theatre” that has made “an audience… interested in discovering European artists.”