Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Multi-sensory show brings Paris life to Huntsville stage, thanks to HHS grads

(The following article originally appeared in The Huntsville Forester on July 22, 2009.)

By Gillian Brunette

Busking with her violin on the streets of Paris was an exciting and rewarding experience for 28-year-old Nisha Coleman.

“I busked on the streets for three years and it worked well. I made more money busking in Paris than I would have in any other job anywhere,” she said.

While busking is officially illegal in Paris, so are many other things but that doesn’t stop the French, Coleman said. “The police don’t bother you unless they receive a complaint. I had a few encounters with the police, but nothing too serious. One time, a lady complained, saying she didn’t like the violin. The police came and questioned me, checked my passport, and that did make me feel a bit uncomfortable.”

There are some areas to be avoided, such as the Champs Elysees, where busking is strictly forbidden. Conversely, there is a designated area for artists and musicians, but it was too busy, Coleman said. “I went to non-designated places, under bridges and archways, where sound can resonate a bit more, which is better for the violin.”

While in Paris, Coleman re-connected with former fellow Huntsville High School student Brigitte Reid, who made a 17-minute documentary about her busking experiences. “That inspired both of us to complement the film with other multi-media to capture the essence of Paris,” said Coleman.

The result can be seen tomorrow night, July 23, at the Algonquin Theatre, when the Huntsville Festival of the Arts presents Une Soiree Parisienne. The show will begin with the documentary,
followed by a text, written and related by Coleman, that will take the audience through a day in Paris, as seen through the eyes of all who encompass the city: children, homeless people, Parisiennes on their way to work, even the pigeons, said Coleman.

“I begin with the day at 6 a.m. through to 10 a.m. Then the theatre will go dark and there will be a two-minute electro-acoustic recording of Paris sounds – the cacophony of traffic, the birds, the metro.” The evening will continue with more text, music and a couple of short films accompanied by Coleman and Reid on violin and piano.

“There will be lots of little surprises throughout the evening. We want to bring four of the five senses to the experience, and make it a holistic revisitation of the city,” Coleman said. One of those senses, taste, will be introduced to patrons during the intermission with offerings of French wine, cheese and baguette.

Recently returned from her sojourn in France, Coleman is settling down in Montreal with her boyfriend, whom she met in Paris. Reid is living in Mexico City with her husband, teaching English and French, filming and working on various other projects. The couple is expecting their first child soon.

Tickets for what promises to be a delightfully different evening are $15 and available at the Algonquin Theatre box office, 789-4975 or online at

PLAYING IN PARIS: There is nothing like the sound of Bach to soothe the soul on a sunny afternoon in Paris. Passer-by Herve Blandin caught former Huntsville High School student Nisha Coleman busking not far from the Palais-Royal and posted it on the web. Coleman and fellow alumna Brigitte Reid bring Une Soiree Parisienne to the Algonquin on July 23.