Marie Cormier delighted the largely Franco-American audience with her solo performance of ‘La Souillonne’ at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston/Auburn last week. Souillonne is a fictional character created by Biddeford writer Norman Beaupre. He wrote the monologue when Cormier agreed to play the part.

Cormier introduced Souillonne by entering the stage through the center aisle. She engaged the audience in her monologue as though they were her family. Her 4- minute narrative was filled with pride about her culture, sprinkled with humor and the bitter sweet memoirs about her lost love, Willie.

Cormier’s audience quickly warmed up to Souillonne because her life is recognizable to thousands of Franco-American women who struggled to carve out a life of dignity while living in working class families.

Cormier was born in Lameque Island, a fishing village in northeast New Brunswick, Canada. She was baptized Marie Alfradine Paulin. Her mother said she was supposed to be named Sarah. But, her father changed his mind about her name while taking her to church to be baptized. It was common for French-Canadian girls to be given the name Marie as an honorary tribute to the Virgin Mary. Also, mothers usually stayed at home after the birth of a baby while the fathers accompanied the godparents to the baptism. Cormier’s father decided he didn’t like a neighbor’s wife named Sarah, so he changed her baptism name to Alfradine. Cormier eventually favored her honorary first name.

Acting began for Cormier when she attended the convent school of Les Filles de Jesus et Marie. “I was 15 years old when the nuns gave me starring roles in the school plays,” she recalls. Acting ambitions were put aside when she married and raised her family. Her passion flared up again while living in Oakland, near Waterville, with her husband, when she was 44 years old. She met J.P. Devine, a Waterville native, writer, theater teacher, film critic and director,  in a local department store.

“Mr. Devine,” she told him, “I have good news for you. You’re not doing another play in Waterville without me!”

As a result, she landed a small part in a play at the Waterville Opera House. Since then, Cormier’s performances include various roles in Maine, Canada, France and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Cormier includes the absorbing show “Shirley Valentine” in her repertoire. It’s another one-woman portrayal she performs in both French and English. In fact, Cormier will do a one performance only benefit of the character “Shirley Valentine” June 26 at the Waterville Opera House.

Beaupre asked Cormier to perform Souillonne when the two were working together in France promoting Franco-Americans and he was promoting his book “Le Petit Mangeur des Fleurs,” Souillonne is a character in the novel.

“I particularly like Souillonne because she is a girl who has a dream,” says Cormier. “She is retired from working in the mills, living at home with her mother while reflecting back about what made her happy. She was not a lady who knew a lot of realized dreams.”

Cormier’s entertaining performance of Souillonne received a standing ovation from the 60 member audience. Cormier’s talent as an accomplished actress was authentic for the role. Souillone was a convincing character who spoke in common sense language about how she dealt with her life filled with setbacks.

Like Souillonne, Cormier says she believes in the value of following a dream. “Acting has fulfilled my wildest dreams,” she says.

Juliana L’Heureux can be contacted at: [email protected]