Raphael Dirani is an actor and undergraduate student at AULA, majoring in Applied Arts and Media. He is currently performing the U.S. debut of The Gag (originally Le Baîllon by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt), a French one-person play he translated and produced himself, for the Hollywood Fringe festival.
MG: What is your background as an actor and student?
RD: I started acting back in France when I was 10. I took classes at the local theater in my hometown, Sèvres. Then, during High School, I started to take up advanced acting and musical theater classes at a local performing arts nonprofit, “Les Enfants de la Comédie.” One year, I also started to take some acting in English classes. The teacher, Spencer McAndrew, coached me so I could audition for acting schools in the United States. I got in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and graduated from it in 2016. The director of the play I’m doing right now, Joe Garcia was also the director of my graduation play at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After graduating I worked on a few projects, such as the web series Treading Yesterday, and two commercials, one for Booking.com and another one for Benefit Cosmetics. It’s been a complicated process to be a French actor in the United States, and that’s why I decided to take up screenwriting and translation. And it resulted in the Sizzle Reel I wrote, and this project for the Fringe Festival!
As a student, I have a two-year degree in Social and Cultural Program Designing from France. Then, after studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I was able to transfer to Antioch University as an Applied Arts and Media major.
MG: What is your connection to this particular show?
RD: I chose to produce and act in this particular show as it struck a personal chord in me. When I first read it, I was just getting to terms with my own homosexuality, and as I started to learn about the AIDS crisis, this play conveyed one of the most innocent and beautiful ways to address this subject.
MG: How does this independent study relate to your studies/ career/ personal goals?
RD: I’ve always been interested in the creative aspects of the Performing Arts as an actor, but working on the producing aspects feels really satisfying. I’ve always wanted to make my ideas come to life, and there’s no other way I’d like to make it happen. I started to really get a taste for screenwriting, and I started to write some parts for myself. I’ve found that I enjoy putting on paper the stories that have been stuck in my brain for so long. The desire to translate and produce a French play comes from a place of wanting to share with my fellow classmates and American friends the plays and books that haven’t been translated yet in English.
The translation process was a lot of fun! It was really fun to play with words and find new hidden meanings in the words. The translation of the title itself took some time. I wrote a twelve-page paper as part of my independent study on my process and analysis to produce and translate the play. The original title was Le Baîllon, and I chose to keep the literal translation to The Gag. It added a pun that wasn’t intended in the first place.
MG: How was your first show?
RD: The first show went really well on a performance level! My boyfriend, who came to see the show during the tech rehearsal, and again for the first representation, said that this time he was really moved. Also, the audience was mostly constituted of Antioch students and faculty, so, kudos to Antioch!
by Malia Gaffney