The Eagle and the Cactus
staged reading at theatre in Somerville, Mass. in 2015.
“The Eagle and the Cactus” enacts the story of resistance by two French women to the German occupation of the Isle of Jersey and poses a counter-narrative to the tragedy of Drancy. Born Lucy Schwob, Cahun made a name for herself in Parisian surrealist circles as a writer and photographer before moving to the Isle of Jersey in 1937 with her step-sister (and lover) Suzanne Malherbe.
When the Germans invaded, the women successfully flummoxed them for years with their endlessly inventive and often humorous anti-war satires. Once found out, Cahun remained defiant. She refused to ask for a pardon and she and Suzanne were condemned to death (though the sentence was never carried out). The play is based on extensive research, including discoveries made at the Cahun archive on the Isle of Jersey.
The title refers to the German Eagle and to Cahun, who once described herself as a prickly cactus. In prison, Cahun creates one of her surrealist sculptures. Her jail cell becomes her studio. The play had a staged reading directed by Jess Viator at theatre@first in Somerville, Mass. in 2015.