The inaugural Acadiana PRIDE Festival celebrates the life of a Lafayette legend, Gisele “Gigi” Carriton, with a March 27-April 11 production run of Dennis Ward’s play, Chez Gisele, at the Cité des Arts Theater. A special premier night, Thursday, March 27, 2014, will feature the novelist and playwright, Dennis Ward, discussing the life of Gigi, his writing journey, and signing copies of his latest novel, Mademoiselle Gigi.
The late Gisele “Gigi” Carriton (1928-2008) is a beloved, historical figure in the Acadiana community. She was owner of the first gay, cabaret nightclub in the decades 1960-1970. In an era of emerging gay rights, Ms Carriton provided not only a place of entertainment, but her nightclub was a safe haven from discrimination and persecution for her gay friends. Gigi even took the extraordinary measure of sheltering gays in her home who had been abandoned by their families. Dennis Ward’s award winning play, Chez Gisele, is a portrait painting of those years and will have its third production since 2010.
Who was this French woman who married a Cajun soldier after World War II in Paris? She was the only child of an upper class financier of the early aviation industry in France and lived quite comfortably before the war in a lavish apartment in an area of Paris known as Les Gobelins. Her Jewish family had immigrated to France at the turn of the 20th century during the time of the pogroms in Russia. Dennis Ward’s first novel in the Gigi series, Mademoiselle Gigi, recalls Gigi’s struggle as a young Jewish girl struggling to survive the Nazi occupation of France. The novel is set in France from 1940-1946 and is the first volume of the Gigi series. Fast forward twenty years later, the same Gigi finds herself the owner of the infamous gay cabaret nightclub, Chez Gisele, championing the cause of her gay friends.
Dennis Ward is proud and humbled the inaugural Acadiana PRIDE Festival chose to open the festival with his stage play, Chez Gisele. The honor confirms the petite French lady, Gisele “Gigi” Carriton, will always be a part of Lafayette gay history. For further details or tickets, contact Cite des Arts Theater at 337-291-1122 or online at citedesarts.org.