Marie Ferré

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Entry by Aurore Evain, 2003

Marie Ferré, or Fairet, actress and acrobat, was contracted to Antoine de l'Esperonnière's troupe in 1545 at Bourges. Her husband, Michel Fasset, remained at Falèze in Normandy. She signed the contract without her husband's prior consent and inserted a clause stipulating that "in case Michel Fasset should not be in agreement with the contract, she should be freed from all responsibilities pertaining to it". Marie Ferré committed herself to follow L'Esperonnière "to all the towns, squares and regions" for a year; during which "she would play the "'Antiquailles de Rome' (Antiquities of Rome) consisting of several stories, moral plays, farces and acrobatics [...] such that everyone who came to watch the spectacle would be amused and overjoyed". In exchange, L'Esperonnière promised to "duly feed, clothe and lodge" Marie and to "pay her the sum of twelve livre tournois", a modest salary for the period. The contract also stipulates that any gifts the actress received were to be shared with Gaillarde, L'Esponnière's wife. Gaillarde would also receive her share of the "coins" Marie Ferré was given when hired for private entertainment by nobles and well to do bourgeois of the period. This contract attests to the fact that Marie Ferré was the first verifiable professional actress in the history of the French theater. She belonged to a generation of female acrobats who did not yet have a feminine repertoire at their disposition which would have allowed them to develop their talents as actresses in more serious roles. These pioneers of the theatrical stage, through their popular success in extra-theatrical activities, such as the dancing, singing and acrobatics which accompanied plays, accustomed the public and early authors of this newly-emerging professional theater to the sight and sound of women declaiming and taking their first steps as dramatic artists.

(translated by Cathy McLive)

Selected bibliography

- Boyer, Henri. "Engagement d'une actrice au théâtre de Bourges en 1545". Mémoires de la société historique du Cher, Bourges, 1888.

Marie Ferré
Spouses Michel Fasset
Also known as Marie Fairet
Birth date After 1500
Death Before 1600
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