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Cleoma Breaux Falcon, right, will be portrayed by Cajun musician Ann Savoy. (Special to the American Press)

Cleoma Breaux Falcon, right, will be portrayed by Cajun musician Ann Savoy. (Special to the American Press)

'Cleoma: A First' brings early Cajun musician to life

Last Modified: Friday, September 28, 2012 2:47 PM

By Cliff Seiber / American Press

Cleoma Breaux Falcon is the latest Louisiana woman to be portrayed in playwright Carolyn Woosley’s series of monologues on pioneering Louisiana women, “The Firsts.”

Early Cajun musician Cleoma will be portrayed by Ann Savoy, herself another important figure in Cajun music, in three nights of the staged reading in Lake Charles this week.

The Itinerant Theatre performances of “Cleoma: A First” will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, through Saturday, Oct. 6, in the Imperial Calcasieu Museum annex at 204 W. Sallier St.

Thursday’s and Friday’s shows will be followed by a question-and-answer session led by Woosley and Savoy. Friday’s will be preceded by “Things from Our Past,” a dramatic presentation produced and directed by Angela Richard Wubben.

It is “a see-and-touch, narrated exhibit of living history,” Wubben said.

Also on Friday will be the release party for Savoy’s CD of all-Cleoma music, available for sale and autographing.

Saturday’s “Cleoma” will be followed by two sets by the Cajun music quartet The Magnolia Sisters, of which Ann Savoy is a member.

“Cleoma is what got me to Louisiana, in a way,” Savoy said in a telephone interview with the American Press. “Being in this show is a dream come true. I’ve always performed Cleoma Falcon’s music.”

“Carolyn has done a really charming job of writing her,” Savoy said of the script. “It is really fun and fast paced.”

Savoy, who grew up in Richmond, Va., majored in French in college and lived in France for a while. At the 1976 National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C., she heard Cajun music and met the musicians, including Marc Savoy, who was to become her husband.

“Here were Americans speaking French. I thought that was wonderful.”

Also while in Washington, she browsed the booth of a vendor who had old 78 records, including Cajun music and particularly Cleoma Falcon’s.

“She and Joe Falcon were the first people to put Cajun music on records,” Savoy said. The first was in 1928, when they recorded “Allons a Lafayette.” Cleoma was one of the first musicians to play guitar with a Cajun band. Before her, the instrumentation consisted of primarily accordion, fiddles and scrub board, but because of the proximity of south Louisiana to Texas, the western music influence crossed over.

The Falcons also played for Cajun dances. It was considered improper for women to be on stage, but, according to Joe Falcon’s niece Solange in an interview, “She was with her husband and I was with my uncle and aunt and father, so they couldn’t say nothing.”

Savoy plays in the Savoy Family Band with her husband and sons and in the Savoy Doucet Band with her husband and Michael Doucet. She also fronts Ann Savoy and Her Sleepless Knights, a vintage jazz group which includes her sons and other musicians. She is the author of the award-winning book “Cajun Music, A Reflection of a People.” Among her 13 CDs, one features duets with Linda Ronstadt.

Woosley, cofounder of Itinerant Theatre with Leslie Berman and Joy Pace, is producer/director of the “Cleoma” staging. Pace is also producer.

Of the 13 plays in Woosley’s “Louisiana Women,” nine have been produced.

“As director I chose Ann as the actress,” Woosley said. “She is the successor to Cleoma. And she is not only the actress but a source of material for the script.

“Ann Savoy has never acted. The only way I convinced her to do it was as a ‘staged reading’ where she has the script on stage with her. She designed the costumes, but the stage will be pretty bare, other than for musical instruments and a Mason jar filled with simulated gin (water), in keeping with Cleoma’s practice. The audience will be using their imagination. There will be musical instruments, and Cleoma will play them.”

If you go

• Itinerant Theatre’s staged reading of “Cleoma: A first,” with Ann Savoy in the title role will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum Annex at 204 Sallier St. On Friday night the play will follow Angela Richard Wubben’s narrated living history exhibit, which will begin at 7 p.m. The release party for Savoy’s all-Cleoma CD will follow Friday’s show.

The Magnolia Sisters will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, following the “Cleoma” show.

Admission: $10 per person for “Cleoma” and $10 for The Magnolia Sisters. A $5 discount for The Magnolia Sisters with proof of purchase of admission to a “Cleoma: A First” show.

Tickets are available by calling 337.436.6275, at until one hour before show time or at the door.

Imperial Calcasieu Museum will extend its gallery hours until curtain time so playgoers may see the exhibit of George Rodrigue’s art, “200 Years: Faces and Places of Louisiana.” Admission is $7 adult, $5 seniors and $2 children.

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