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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

5 questions for Hélène Demé Elzévir, star of ¡De Pelos! and confirmed globetrotter

Performer has deep ties to Merida, but no single city can hold her down

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Hélène Demé Elzévir takes a selfie at the 2018 performance of “¡De Pelos!” Photo: Courtesy

While French expat Hélène Demé Elzévir prepares for her one-woman show at the Olimpo, the comic actress was nice enough to take some time to satisfy our curiosity about a few things.

1. Tell us first about your upcoming show at the Olimpo. It’s one woman, you, playing multiple characters?

Hello Lee! Yes “¡De Pelos!” is a one-woman show but about 15 characters come to life on stage… “¡De Pelos!” (just like “Pile Poil,” the original French version) is actually a real theater play, with a story, a beginning, an end and a central character that evolves throughout the play. It’s the story of a woman who becomes single after 40 and tries her best to adapt to her new situation, in society and with her hormones kicking in! A bunch of characters come up with what they believe to be the “solutions” to “save” her from this “horrible” situation: being single, argh! There is such an increase of single people that even politicians get involved!

2. Your biography isn’t quite so simple. You were born in France, raised your daughter in Merida, and your resume mentions New York City quite a bit. How did you come to land in Mexico and New York?

Yes, I moved a lot in my life. I grew up in France, Germany and Australia, went to college in France and Germany and to theater-schools in Paris and eventually New York, where I got inspired and founded my company Théâtre Ouf! in 2003, created six plays and did lots of performances. It was a wonderful time!

On a very very cold winter, I decided to escape freezing New York and went backpacking through South Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. I had just finished a long run of performances and I was in need of a break, nature, sun, and silence. I needed to be contemplative. The vacation extended and extended until I was blessed with the arrival of my beautiful daughter. We then lived between France and Yucatan.

How did I land in all those beautiful places? Growing up in different countries developed in me an intense curiosity for new places and cultures. I got curious and just went for it!

3. Your show at the Olimpo is a return engagement. Have you tweaked the performance at all since the last engagement?

I haven’t performed “¡De Pelos!” since last year. I was very happy about the turnout and response. It was sold out; some people couldn’t make it in because we ran out of tickets! Honestly, before the show I was worried whether my humor would work in Spanish and if the ideas I convey would be accepted, I was so happy to see the public being very reactive and participative. Turns out the issues I’m addressing are universal! Honestly it was one of the shows I mostly enjoyed ever! I am working on details to make it even more funny. 

4. Diario de Yucatan wrote that you’ve performed at the Armando Manzanero Theater in French, with great success. How is that possible? And will you perform in English?

Yes, I performed “Pile Poil” in French in 2016 at the Sala de Arte of the Armando Manzanero Theater. It seats 100 people but it was full and the audience seemed very happy!

I really hope to find the time to write an American version of the show. It’s been on my list for over a year! I actually make a lot of puns and references to events and culture throughout the play, so I can’t just translate it. I actually need to rewrite the play including references to the culture in question. For the Mexican version, five women worked with me to help me find the right words, idioms and references to make it resonate to the local audience. Actually, I would love to have an English version ready for next winter and perform it for our English-speaking comedy lovers in Mérida!

5. That’s good to know! You have lots of Merida friends, according to your Facebook page. So can Merida claim you as “theirs” now? Or do you plan to continue hopping the globe?

Hahaha! Yes, there are a lot of nice and interesting people in Mérida and I am lucky to know quite a bunch, it’s true, but Lee, I’m afraid nobody can really claim me “theirs”! ; )  That’s just at the same time my blessing and my curse. I am a confirmed globetrotter and feel at home in different parts of the world and this is exactly the theme I am  exploring in my next show. Yes, I’m afraid I will continue discovering new cultures. Can’t help it, but I will come back, I’m a migrator.

Would you say that the ducks who migrate yearly between Yucatan and Canada are Canadians going to warm up in Yucatan for the winter, or Yucatecos who are going to cool off in Canada for a few months?

“¡De Pelos!” is one night only, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9. Tickets (100 pesos) at 999-440-3323 or at Bistro Cultural (Calle 66 at 43 street, Centro), Pistache (470 Paseo de Montejo), Pastetería Pistache Cumbres, in front of the Cumbres school in Montecristo) and Café Crème (Calle 41 386-B, Centro). More information on the Theatre Ouf! website, and on Facebook here.

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