Les Filles du Roi: a sumptuous reimagining of our history

Julie McIsaac and the chorus in Les Filles du Roi (Photo by David Cooper)

Julie McIsaac and the chorus in Les Filles du Roi (Photo by David Cooper)

Corey Payette and his collaborators are reinventing the story of Canada—in ways that respect First Nations and women. It’s thrilling.

In last year’s musical, Children of God, Payette took on the residential school system. He wrote, directed, and composed that piece, which changed the way I see the world—and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. In Les Filles du Roi, which is also a new musical, Julie McIsaac joined Payette in writing the book and lyrics. Once again, Payette composed the piece and directed it.

Les Filles du Roi features three main characters: Kateri, a young Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman who has been chosen to become Clan Mother; Kateri’s older brother Jean-Baptiste, who trades with the French colonists in their fort; and Marie-Jeanne, a sixteen-year-old woman who has arrived in New France as a fille du roi or nominal daughter of the king. (Between 1663 and 1673, about 800 young women immigrated to New France in a program sponsored by Louis XIV. The idea was to increase the population of the French colony. It worked.)

In Les Filles du Roi, Kateri befriends Marie-Jeanne, Marie-Jeanne falls in love with Jean-Baptiste, and all hell breaks loose. That hell includes violence against both women and the Kanien’kéha:ka. [Read more…]