HARLINGEN — Merci beaucoup.
That’s French for, “Thank you very much.”
At Sunshine RV Resort, French Canadians began using the expression after learning the play “Drama and Dessert” would be presented with French translations Saturday night.
“Drama and Dessert” is a murder mystery written by park resident Nancy Steele. The park has a sizable population of French Canadians. Many of these Winter Texans from Canada speak only French.
Steele has been writing plays and directing them at the park for several years. Each year, however, many of residents were not able to enjoy the productions because they didn’t speak English.
However, this year was different. Steele, a year-round park resident, and Larry Bisson, a Winter Texan from Quebec, made arrangements for French translations to accompany the play. That being completed, those translations on a screen invited the park’s French Canadians into the event.
One of them is Bertrand Trembley, 82. There was a gleam in his eyes, an expression that was at once rich with humor and yet sharp with focus. His thin figure suddenly crouched as if to spring forward. Then his eyes and jaw flew wide open.
“I play an Italian Mafioso,” he said with quick staccato laughter.
Trembley, a fan of opera, compared the translations on the screen to reading the lines of an opera.
“I like it when I see the lines,” he said, gesturing toward fellow park resident Guy Belanger, 74, of Quebec.
Belanger sat now at a laptop shifting slides with the French translations. The words, strange and exciting to the untrained observer, hovered over a pale blue background.
“This is a short version in French of what they are talking about, very short,” said Belanger. “This is the first time we are doing it.”
Occasionally he cast his eyes toward the stage where the actors rehearsed. The park manager, Annette Elkins, was in a heated discussion with the sheriff, played by Mary Jo Lackey. There had been a murder in the park and both wanted it solved — and quick.
“Rest assured I am going to get to the bottom of this,” said Lackey, aka the sheriff.
Belanger was glad the park’s French Canadians would be able to enjoy the play. This issue concerned him on a personal level, as well as his desire to help people in general.
“My wife doesn’t speak one word of English,” he said. “I look at it more like integrating the French Canadians into the community.”