How do you handle bearing a big family name when you’re all of 20 years old? Just ask Marie Gagliolo…she does it with grace and flair.
Most 20 year olds you come across today will tell you, with that look somewhere between utter boredom and post-teen angst, that they have no idea what to do in life, they are just hangin’, they wanna be a hip-hop artist, get filthy rich and then move to another galaxy. Not so Marie. Marie Gagliolo is the emerging flame bearer of the prominent and much beloved family that has decisively shaped the city of Nice over the past century, and she has a very clear idea where she is going.
Everyone in Nice knows the Gag family, as they are popularly referred to here, thanks to decades’ worth of individual and collective contribution to the town’s culture and social fabric. Among all their work, theatre has held a special place in the clan’s heart ever since Francis Gag, the venerable playwright and humanitarian, founded the Théâtre Niçois in Vieux Nice 80 years ago (which was later to become Théâtre Municipal Francis Gag.) And he handed down more than just his love and talent for the performing arts and Niçois tradition to the succeeding generations…. he also passed on a strong sense of civic duty.
Today, his grandson and current patriarch, Jean-Luc Gag, redefines local theatre and literature in his capacity as a city councilor, having received the formidable task by Mayor Christian Estrosi to elevate Nice to a premier arts and culture center in France. His wife Claire, although less visible publicly, holds no less influence in her own fields of interest, those of science, environment, and business creation. But the ball doesn’t stop there….. the youngest Gag generation is already getting ready in the wings to continue the family legacy. Their 20 year old daughter Marie is chomping at the bit to carry on the formidable legacy.
Needless to say that Marie grew up breathing theatrical air ever since she was knee high to a grasshopper. As a teenager she got involved in various Niçois cultural activities but come decision time what to do for a living, she didn’t really hear Thespia’s call. With her high school graduation in pocket, she tried to channel her aptitude for languages (being perfectly quadrilingual French, English, Italian and of course Nissart) and her love for people into something productive, working in the hotel industry in Cannes for a couple of years. “But I realized I felt a little lost, and that theatre was the only thing I really loved.” So one fine day, Marie upped and left, enrolling in drama studies at the Faculté des Lettres and the Conservatoire National à Rayonnement Régional, a theatre academy which has a number of prominent alumni. “That’s when I finally felt at home, and that is really what I want to do. I love to play, sing, and dance. Now my entire life revolves around theatre and I just love it,” she raves with the conviction of one who has found her calling.
If you’re born “the daughter of”, and an heiress to a great name associated with all things cultural in town, it’s infinitely harder to profile yourself but that doesn’t faze Marie. Over the past couple of years she has ever so gradually evolved as Marie Gagliolo in her own right, increasingly becoming the figurehead for Niçois youth and representing the Countea de Nissa culturally on a national level. Her participation in the 2016 Payse de France competition, a festival honouring French regional folklore, earned her the place of second runner-up. She is also a highly engaged and charming presence at Maison Francine Gag, the venue that honours the work and legacy of her grandmother who along with her husband Pierre-Louis Gag – – Francis’ son and Jean-Luc’s father – dedicated her life to preserving and furthering local culture and traditions, and bettering the lives of their fellow citizens less fortunate than themselves.
Quite clearly conscious that she has to earn her way up from scratch, Marie is grateful that her father does give her the occasional opportunity to play in productions at the Théâtre Francis Gag – not on merit of being his daughter but because he believes in her talent, and she is eager to prove it. On the TFG’s playbill from May 13 through 22, Raça ‘stirassa – loosely translating to “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” – a “Baroque comedy in 66 scenettes in Niçois, French and a little bit of English” written by Jean-Luc Gag, based on Francis Gag’s manuscripts and Pierre-Louis’ notes. With Marie playing the role of Angélica, the strongheaded youngest daughter who leads her family by their nose, this play is unique in uniting four generations of the same family. Written in the spirit of the wonderfully humourous and lyrical Commedia dell’arte, style, love, intrigue, money, and ambitions meet and create havoc…. and family vice and virtue are passed down through the generations. Life imitating art, or was it the other way round?
In Marie’s case, it’s clearly the values and the artistic talent that have been transmitted, and the beautiful city of Nice has much to look forward to with another Gag eager to stamp her mark on its cultural identity.
Théâtre Municipal Francis Gag
3, rue de la Croix
Tel: +33 4 92 00 78 50
All images courtesy Marie Gag; lead image © Frederic de Faverney