jeudi 17 décembre 2009
mercredi 2 décembre 2009
Du théâtre (pour changer…) et de son financement (Ah ! là, d’accord, oui, un peu plus surprenant).
Je suis en train de lire un livre très stimulant ces jours-ci, Creating a World Without Poverty, de Mohammad Yunus (aussi traduit en français). Pas de rapport direct avec le théâtre, mais avec tout le reste : comment réfléchir pragmatiquement pour trouver des modes durables de financement pour aider les populations pauvres à s’en sortir. Et plus généralement, comment faire preuve de créativité pour résoudre des problèmes a priori insolubles.
(note : Yunus et la Grameen Bank – prix Nobel de la Paix en 2006.)
Peut-être que les personnes de mon entourage qui s’y connaissent en économie et en
« development studies » auront quelque chose à redire sur les théories Yunus, mais je dois avouer qu’en tant que simple lectrice ayant eu pour initiation économique les cours de 2nde, 1ère et Terminale de Mrs Robat (prof assez géniale), je suis conquise. Pas toujours complètement d’accord, et assez souvent dubitative sur la façon dont toutes les institutions Grameen sont financées (et génératrices de profit), mais conquise quand même. Le pragmatisme optimiste de l’auteur est contagieux.
Pour résumer, Yunus est un professeur d’économie du Bangladesh qui s’est improvisé
« banquier pour les pauvres » quand il s’est rendu compte que les populations pauvres et rurales de son pays étaient ignorées par les services financiers. En effet, lorsqu’on est trop pauvre, impossible d’emprunter, et donc aucun moyen de financer des projets, aussi modestes soient-ils. Donc Yunus s’est mis à réfléchir à un système de prêt adapté, ce qui a conduit à l’émergence du concept de microcrédit. Le système s’est crée pour répondre aux besoins de la population, et pas l’inverse. La première institution qui s’est développée à partir de cette idée de microcrédit était la Grameen Bank. Maintenant, il ya une ribambelle d’entreprises et d’institutions affiliées qui ont toutes « Grameen » dans leur nom, mais qui couvrent un vaste champ de besoins et de services. Toutes sont aussi censées avoir comme préoccupation centrale d’aider et de servir les populations à risque, plutôt que de les arnaquer.
La pensée particulièrement stimulante de Yunus, c’est de dire que les pauvres peuvent se servir eux-mêmes si on leur donne la possibilité de le faire. Plutôt que de considérer les populations pauvres comme étant irresponsables et indignes de la confiance des plus riches, Yunus stipule que les pauvres sont tout simplement privés de l’opportunité de s’enrichir, dans tous les sens du terme. Et quand il parle d’opportunité, il ne parle pas simplement d’argent, mais d’un tremplin qui permette à chaque personne de prendre confiance, et de trouver la force d’innover.
Yunus questionne, interroge et finit par défier le concept de charité, en disant que ce n’est pas quelque chose de très efficace : l’argent fini par être avalé par les institutions au service d’un seul projet, alors que cet argent pourrait être utilisé pour un projet puis réutilisé pour autre chose si seulement le capital était investi au lieu d’être légué. En plus, lorsqu’une institution bénéficie de fonds caritatifs, elle a moins besoin d’être compétitive, puisque la façon dont elle est financée ne dépend pas du marché. En plus en plus, les bénéficiaires de l’argent caritatif sont très souvent passifs au lieu d’être activement en charge de leurs destins, de leurs carrières et de leurs familles.
Ce que Yunus encourage, c’est un modèle qui se détache du modèle caritatif pour flirter avec la compétition de marché, sans toutefois considérer le profit financier comme seul but de la démarche. Ce qui nous amène au « social business », traduit par « business social » (j’adore les traductions qui n’en sont pas !). En gros, un business social est une entreprise qui génère suffisamment d’argent pour s’auto-financer, mais qui ne fait pas plus de bénéfices pour enrichir ses investisseurs. Car ses investisseurs ont accepté de ne récupérer que l’argent qu’ils ont investi, sans profit. Mais ils n’ont pas accepté de simplement donner leur argent : ils comptent bien le récupérer, après un certain nombre d’années. Une fois récupéré, ils peuvent réinvestir l’argent dans la même entreprise s’ils le souhaitent (mais sans obligation). Ce modèle de business social veut voir tous les participants tirer leur épingle du jeu. Bien sûr, les investisseurs ne sont pas là pour s’enrichir, mais ils contribuent sans perte à aider d’autres personnes à sortir de la précarité.
Tout ça pour en venir au théâtre…
La question qui revient sans cesse, partout, tout le temps, quand on travaille dans un théâtre, c’est :
« Comment faire pour financer tout ça ? »
De cette question générale surgissent des questions particulières :
1. « Comment trouver suffisamment d’argent pour mener à bien un projet ? »
réponse courante en France : « envoyer des dossiers de subventions publiques », et, plus rarement, mais quand même de temps en temps : « demander de l’argent à des institutions privées » et aussi : « utiliser les recettes du spectacle précédent s’il en reste pour un nouveau projet ».
2. « Comment payer les artistes ? » réponse : « comme on peut, avec le peu qu’on a. Parfois, ne pas les payer et se contenter de les défrayer ».
3. « Comment payer les administrateurs ? » réponse : « le plus souvent, chercher des stagiaires qui ne coûtent pas cher, et possiblement établir un contrat en CDD pour une période plus ou moins longue ».
4. « Comment avoir l’assurance que l’on pourra entamer un nouveau projet ? » réponse : « pas d’assurance, le théâtre est un métier risqué ».
Toutes ces questions-réponses ont comme même refrain celui de la précarité. On n’est jamais sûr de pouvoir avancer, donc on ne peut pas se concentrer à 100% sur la tâche principale, qui est celle de faire du beau et stimulant et magnifique théâtre.
Alors, bien sûr, il ne s’agit pas, dans le cas du théâtre, d’éradiquer la pauvreté dans le monde. Le théâtre n’est pas quelque chose dont on a absolument besoin. On peut s’en passer, mais on peut aussi s’enrichir à son contact (ou s’emmerder, mais chut, faut pas le dire). Etant donné que je passe le plus clair de mon temps à promouvoir le théâtre et à le servir, je suis persuadée que cet art est utile pour la société, même si pas fondamentalement nécessaire. Mais je me heurte à l’éternel problème du financement.
Pourquoi ne pas tenter de s’écarter du modèle caritatif (subventions publiques) pour se rapprocher d’un modèle de business social ? Une sorte de troisième voie entre le théâtre public et le théâtre privé… Je ne dis pas qu’on ne pourrait pas commencer par avoir des fonds légués par une institution, mais avoir comme but dans le moyen terme d’être auto-suffisant, et petit à petit, de générer suffisamment de profit afin de réinjecter de l’argent dans de nouveaux projets, et attirer des investisseurs « sociaux ».
Si c’était aussi simple, je ne serais pas en train d’écrire toutes ces âneries (ou anneries, c’est comme vous voulez) à 1h30 du mat.
Et là, il est temps que je vous renvoie aux posts de Christopher Ashworth (en anglais)
qui sont assez beautiful, si je puis me permettre cet englishism.
Et oui, le théâtre est un art anti-capitaliste parce que si cher à fabriquer, et si difficile à vendre en masse.
Donc, conclusion, on ne peut pas vraiment compter sur la vente du produit fini pour permettre aux artistes de manger ou, rêvons un peu, de mettre de la margarine dans la mâche (parce que les épinards, c’est vraiment du luxe, les gars).
Donc… il faut penser le théâtre comme quelque chose de plus général qu’un spectacle. Il faudrait penser le théâtre comme plus qu’un simple divertissement. Il faudrait penser le théâtre comme une expérience qui vaut la peine (et l’argent) d’être vécue : une expérience dans laquelle les personnes plus aisées auraient vraiment envie d’investir, et de laquelle les plus pauvres ne seraient pas exclus.
Une des solutions proposées par Chris Ashworth, c’est de créer une tarification à mi-chemin entre la souscription traditionnelle théâtrale (120 euros pour les 4 spectacles de la saison d’un théâtre) et l’abonnement à un magazine (15 euros par mois pour un hebdomadaire). Ou, en fait, plus simplement, de copier l’idée de la carte UGC, mais adaptée au théâtre. L’idée serait d’avoir un prix net par mois pour les adhérents avec la possibilité de voir tous les spectacles proposés, et, en bonus, d’être inclus dans le processus artistique. Par exemple, avoir le privilège d’assister à une répétition, ou de participer à un atelier. Les artistes sont obligés de passer par la case « développement » pour mener à bien le spectacle, donc pourquoi ne pas partager, ne serait-ce qu’un peu, ce processus ?
Mais le problème, mademoiselle, c’est qu’une petite troupe de théâtre ne peut pas humainement proposer un spectacle par mois, et encore moins plusieurs…
A cela je réponds : en effet, l’idéal, ce serait de rassembler pleins de petites troupes, pour que l’union fasse la force. A Paris, cette union pourrait être explosive (au sens positif) parce qu’il y a une offre fulgurante, et qu’avec ce système d’abonnement, les mordus de théâtre pourraient aller voir pleins de spectacles, et soutenir plusieurs compagnies avec un même abonnement (qui serait plus élevé, selon le nombre de spectacles proposés, peut-être ? Ou bien il pourrait y avoir plusieurs types d’abonnements ?).
Malheureusement, ce rassemblement paraît bien utopique, puisqu’à l’heure actuelle, les petites troupes sont très divisées, et se battent entre elles pour les financements et les salles. Aux Etats-Unis, les théâtres indépendants régionaux se mobilisent de plus en plus ensemble, comme en témoigne l'association NET - Network of Ensemble Theatres - : http://ensembletheaters.net/
Mais, si cette tarification n’est pas encore au point, elle pourrait le devenir, ou quelque chose dans ce genre là. En tout cas, c’est sûr qu’il faut revoir le concept « théâtre » et le lier davantage à la communauté, à la population, le réinvestir de son qualificatif d’art vivant.
Et les pauvres dans tout ça ?
Quand on s’aide soi-même, on peut mieux aider les autres. Un théâtre qui est sorti de la précarité accumule peu à peu les ressources pour établir des programmes d’éducation théâtrale pour les enfants, adolescents et adultes, et peut transmettre durablement la joie du jeu et de l’imagination.
Il est donc urgent d’allier la créativité du processus à celle du spectacle et à celle du financement…
PS : Je sais qu’il y a pleins de choses qui manquent dans ma réflexion, qui ne sont pas logiques… par exemple, la taxation : c’est plus profitable d’être une association loi 1901 parce qu’on est pas taxé, mais en même temps, il y plein de freins à la croissance. Une assoc’ 1901 ne peut que lever des fonds un certain nombre de fois par an, par ex.
Sinon, aussi, le statut des intermittents assure une certaine stabilité… oui, mais, acquérir un statut d’intermittent, c’est pas gagné (on m’a déjà expliqué comment fonctionne le système d’intermittent, mais j’oublie à chaque fois) et les petites compagnies n’ont souvent pas les moyens de payer le cachet du comédien, donc les plus petites structures restent précaires…
PPS : Ce n’est pas parce que je parle de financement du théâtre que je ne suis pas choquée par le débat sur l’identité nationale. Peut-être que j’arriverais à articuler mes pensées dans un post. Tout ce qui me vient à l’esprit pour l’instant, c’est qu’il faudrait trouver une façon médiatique agressive (via internet ?) pour combattre cette idée d’une identité française uniforme, sans tomber dans le cliché de la France « Black-Blanc-Beur »… quelque chose dans le genre : « l’identité française n’est pas prête à être casée », ou autre chose de plus inspiré, quelque chose qui sonne et qui détonne… des idées de slogan ? C’est vrai qu’un slogan ne résout pas tout, mais devant la machine médiatique qu’est Sarkozy, j’ai le sentiment qu’il faut parfois utiliser ses propres armes pour le combattre…
dimanche 29 novembre 2009
Je suis allée en Oklahoma ce week-end, pour Thanksgiving. On fêtait les 90 ans d'une de mes grandes tantes, Aunt Marie. J'ai pu rencontrer des membres de ma famille dont j'ignorais jusque l'existence, et je suis éblouie par le pouvoir de ce qu'on appelle "famille". Des personnes ont beau ne pas se voir, ne jamais se voir, il y a quand même quelquechose qui les lie. Pas forcément un lien du sang, parce que les familles se nouent aussi par alliance et par adoption. Mais il s'agit d'un lien qui dépasse l'individu, qui voyage de génération en génération. Si quelqu'un connaissait ma grand-mère, connaissait ma mère, alors, ce quelqu'un me connait, un peu. Si quelqu'un connait ma cousine, et que je suis aussi sa cousine, alors, on est cousines. On ne se connait pas, mais on peut commencer la relation quelque part. En tout cas, ce quelqu'un m'accepte. C'est assez fort, mine de rien.
Ok, English now.
I had never been to Oklahoma, that I remember, so this trip was a first. Although I hadn't been there geographically, I had heard of Oklahoma from different family members. From my grandparents, first of all. Oklahoma was the place where they spent their childhood, and their years as young adults. Oklahoma was the home land. That arid farmland, those endless plains. Now I understand. When we were sorting out my grandparent's belongings when they moved from their house in Richmond, I came across this picture of my grandmother, who couldn't have been more than 6 years old, with her brothers. It's a brown and white picture, but you can still tell that the kids are squinting because of the harsh sunlight. They are barefoot in a dusty garden. My grandmother has a short cotton dress, and my great-uncles are wearing pants and suspenders, and scruffy shirts. Oklahoma farm kids. The dusty soil, and the incredibly bright light. Now I understand.
I remember my mom fondly talking about her paternal grandmother, and I can now imagine how her accent could have sounded. I remember my grandfather talking about the landscapes, and now I have seen them. It wasn't planned, but going to Oklahoma has made sense in the grand scheme of things. As my grandfather passed away, I finally discovered where he came from.
We stopped by OBU, Oklahoma Baptist University, which is basically the family university. My grandfather went there, my mother too, as well as most of my uncles. I heard great things about OBU from my grandfather, since it's the place where he was able to access to higher education, and think about becoming a pastor. It's also the place where he met my grandmother, who was also a student there. I didn't hear such great things about OBU from my mother, or some of my uncles, but - good or bad memories - it remains the place where most of my american family was educated. And when I see the results, I'm thinking that, either they were able to recover from that experience, or OBU taught them some valuable things along the way.
We also made it to Thomas, my mother's birthplace. When I think that she comes from that little town, in the southwest of the USA, I feel slight vertigo... to see where she is now, in Paris, France (and not Paris, Texas - which wouldn't be so far from Thomas!). I'm starting to understand more clearly what she means when she says that she has had "several lives".
And to finish off this Oklahoma hommage, here are a few other photos I took during the trip...
... of my sister on the phone with my mom in Shawnee
... of the old Santa Fe train line sign ( rail no longer in service, unfortunately)
... of the Oklahoma-city skyline.
vendredi 13 novembre 2009
With Touchstone, I'm involved in education programs where we use theatre as a learning tool. We are currently working with a group of middle-school and high-school kids who have various issues - psychological problems, not able to deal with authority, depression, stuff like that. They really seem to enjoy the course so far. They're responsive, and come up with very interesting ideas, thoughts and confessions. I think we definitely lucked out with our group this year, since all the kids are surprisingly cooperative, but I also think that it has a lot to do with the program's approach. Vicki, Touchstone's education coordinator, is a very calm and tolerant person, and she's the one who structured the course.
During the first few weeks, many theatre games are introduced to encourage group solidarity, listening and responding. Little by little, elements of acting and performance are incorporated in the program, allowing the kids to finally share their own creative works in a showcase at Touchstone theatre. The aim of the program is to get those kids to work together, to help them communicate with each other in a positive way.
By doing this, I'm realizing how important it is to give people - and kids in particular - a chance to express themselves, and a space where they can be taken seriously. And sometimes, school isn't the place where that's going to happen: because there are many kids in a class, there's a curriculum to follow, etc. That's why programs offered by people from the outside, like the ones Touchstone is offering, are so important. It's a way for society at large to say that it cares about these kids beyond the institutional structure of the school. It's also a way for kids to see that they are worthy and smart even if they're not getting good grades.
I wonder how this program would translate in a French school. I'm really very curious about that. Since the French system is so much stricter, so much more regimented, the kids would probably need a time of adaptation. They would have to be assured and reassured that it's okay to express their ideas, it's okay to get up on their feet to play silly games. They would also be told that the program wouldn't be graded, they wouldn't be judged.
I think that such a program would be very beneficial in a french setting, especially for the kids who feel rejected by the school system (and there are many!). There must already be some similar initiatives in France, in banlieue schools or elsewhere, but I'm just not aware of them. Getting information about stuff like that on the internet is not so easy. A lot of actors in Paris supplement their income by doing educational stuff, and also working in prisons, but I don't know how they actually get the jobs... I wonder if there's a structure that organises those missions, or if it's disorganised, "au petit bonheur la chance"... if someone knows something about this, feel free to comment!
jeudi 5 novembre 2009
I guess I should start by saying that I'm in the Touchstone offices writing this blog post while the first run of The Tempest is going on. The reason I'm not watcching it is because the house is packed with audience members! And that's pretty exciting. I'll get feedback on the show later tonight, and I'll probably get to see it tomorrow.
Card playing and sports
samedi 24 octobre 2009
Here I am again, writing a blog entry in a warm coffee shop called "Déjà brew" - Bethlehem does not lack coffee shops!- instead of venturing outside in the extreme wetness and dampness of this Pennsylvannia October day...
And since it's so yukky outside, why not post a few photos of a previous day, not so long ago (last thursday, in fact), where autumn was at its best: invigorating breeze without ever being cold, beautiful light, radiant colors...
I biked around a bit on the North side of town that day, and finally abandonned my bicycle to venture by foot in the beautiful old Nisky Hill cemetery. It was so beautiful, and peaceful, and restful.
I finally sat down and read "Moby Dick", very often looking up from the pages to stare at the trees surrounding me, just because they were so pretty.
And, behind the trees, another structure, dilapidated now but intrinsic to Bethlehem's character - the steel mills.
And, just to reassure people, I am doing things at the theatre: we have started the teaching programs in local high schools, and both me and Zach are on "prop and costume duty" for the show that's coming up, Shakespeare's "Tempest"... more theatre stuff in future blog posts.
vendredi 23 octobre 2009
La vue du haut de la colline:
dimanche 18 octobre 2009
Juste un petit mot d'avertissement: ne pas faire écouter ça à quelqu'un qui apprend l'anglais ou le français parce que it will mess with the cerveau!
I am sitting in a coffee shop and trying, as much as possible, to relax. I purposely didn't bring my laptop. I wanted to write for the sake of writing, and not be gulped into the computer screen, where nothing besides the screen matters. I wanted to be aware of my surroundings.
This coffee shop is really lovely. It's as close to a comfy living room as you can get, with a big leather sofa and a low table filled with magazines. I think I will be coming here again! This is a place Juliette would like. Although, since it's so small, you can't really have a private conversation. It's more of a solo coffee shop, where you will most likely end up conversing with the person behind the counter, or with another coffee-drinker.
That's actually what ended up happening when I was there. The lady at the counter asked us what music we wanted to listen to, and the young woman reading the newspaper (about my age) suggested a group - the ravonettes (?) - and said she was going to see them in concert. The conversation continued a bit, then we went back to our separate occupations : me writing, the other customer reading the newspaper, and the waitress knitting.
We often refer to cafés as "alone in the crowd" places where authors could write: Hemingway, Sartre, Beauvoir, Fitzgerald... But coffee shops are also places where so many friendships have blossomed. Juliette, the Amnesty Café in Dublin and I had one of those relationships, where the coffee shop becomes the special place for a friendship to grow. Is it still there, on Fleet Street (not the big London Fleet Street, the tiny Dublin one)? I hope so. Not much of a coffee shop, really. More like a gift shop, and a deli, and the front room of the Amnesty headquarters in Dublin. The waiters were always cute, and friendly. We ended up wondering if one of the recrutment criteria wasn't actually to be good-looking...and then we would think "pas plus mal"! Juliette and I would sit at one of those square tables for hours on end. We would often end up having more than one coffee, or eating something since their sandwiches were mouthwateringly delicious. We really were excellent customers, since we didn't have much else to do at the time, except going to a few classes at Trinity and occasionnally writing essays and preparing presentations. I didn't have a job (for a change) and Juliette did end up getting a job, but it was flexible. It didn't hinder our Amnesty sessions.
And this is how The Wise Bean, little coffee shop in Bethlehem, PA, is bringing me all the way back to Dublin. As I look at the walls of this place, I realize that all my music-conscious friends would be proud. There are posters of : Bob Dylan's Love and Theft album, The Velvet underground and Nico and Warhol's famous banana, The Ramones, Miles Davis and Johnny Cash. I am well surrounded! And, as a customer was buying his coffee, he asked the lady what she was reading these days... good music and book lovers! What else can one possibly want from a coffee shop? Good coffee, perhaps. It passes the test in that category, too.
Et comble du comble, as I sat down, Serge Gainsbourg's Bonny and Clide played as if saying with a wink, "this is for you, Frenchie" (in incredibly broken english, a glass of whisky in one hand, and a gauloise in the other).
samedi 10 octobre 2009
But I feel like now is the right time to describe the whole Walden experience. I was working on sound for this show, which ran twice. The first run was in a conference room, where ten people showed up. The other was in a "real" theatre, where there were between 350 and 400 people in the audience. Life in the theatre! Feast or famine!
Both shows were ordered by Northampton Community College (which insured Touchstone's paycheck on both nights. The tickets were free). This college has three campuses in the Bethlehem area and beyond. The first night, we went to the Poconos, about 45 minutes away, and the second night, we were closer to Bethlehem. Since this was a one-man show based on Thoreau's Walden, the props were sparse and simple: A small table, a chair, a stool, a music stand, a costume and boots. That was pretty much it, and it all fit in Bill's (the performer's) car.
First night: off we went, Bill, Emma (the flautist) and me, to meet with our ten audience members - at the time, we thought there would be more - and transmit Thoreauvian thought theatrically. The car ride was lovely. We were driving through woods and could see the trees changing color - from green to red, or orange and yellow. The light was bright yet subdued, in that very special autumn way. I enjoyed watching the scenery so much, I didn't even fall asleep! (detail worth mentioning, since I invariably fall asleep in moving cars - habit I share with my sister). Looking at all those trees also made me want to hike.
Anyway, we got there. We found the conference room, where groups of students were hanging out and being loud. Not the ideal setting to test sound cues, but hey, at least there was a decent sound system. The space finally cleared, the show started (late - always hoping for more people to show up), under fluorescent lights. Bill worked with what he had: a few people interested in hearing about Walden Pond. He sat amongst them, addressed a particular member of the audience, then another. He whispered, he shouted. Bits of text that I hadn't understood in rehearsal suddenly became much clearer. Bits of transcendental philosophy shared with integrity and enthusiasm. The show ended quickly, since only the first act of the play was performed that night. There was a talk-back session, where interesting questions were asked by the few students who came to watch.
Emma and I got a ride back with the philosophy professor from Northampton who had organized these gigs. He's a very fun guy, triggering lively conversation and laughs and driving us, by mistake, all the way to New Jersey.
Next day, 9 am (or thereabouts), the team met up at the theatre in the Northampton Bethlehem campus for a tech rehearsal. This was a completely different space from the previous night. We were in a pretty cool rounded theatre, with a proper sound and lighting booth, and lots and lots of fancy lights. Four of us were working on this evening's performance: Lisa, Touchstone's producing director, had joined us to work the lights.
The tech rehearsal was tedious, as are all tech rehearsals. It lasted longer than expected as do all tech rehearsals! The sound cues were fairly easy to handle, so I wasn’t too stressed out, but just stressed enough not to mess things up.
4.30 pm, and we were back for a run-through before the actual show was scheduled to start at 7.00.
Doors opened at 6.30. The theatre packed up, almost to a full house, and at 7.30 (late, again!) Thoreau came alive to talk about the woods, the meaning of life, and the importance of leading one’s life as one wants. Bill was starting to feel comfortable with the material, playing with intensity levels, bringing spontaneity within the confines of the text. Bill the performer was transmitting the 19th century American philosopher’s words to a group of 21st century people thirsty for some philosophical direction.
One of the final passages is particularly powerful, where Thoreau basically gets to the bare essentials of life in one paragraph. In the talk back session, Bill said that “this passage got me through some tough times”. And I can see how such a passage could help in times of doubt.
In Thoreau’s words:
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer”.
Bill in rehearsal, with a nice tree light effect
Performance time! Emma at the flute ..
...And Bill as Thoreau.
mercredi 30 septembre 2009
J'ai enfin trouvé une personne qui est intéressée par mes services (cours de français), et je vais la rencontrer mardi prochain. Elle souhaite écrire une thèse dans le domaine des "French studies" (et oui, ça existe!), et plus précisément sur la littérature africaine francophone (et bien plus précisément, sur la littérature rwandaise post-génocide). Il faut donc que je me renseigne un peu sur ces sujets, bien que je pense que les cours seront d'abord surtout des révisions de grammaire et de conversation. Mais, si quelqu'un lisant ces lignes connait des auteurs Africains écrivant en français, qu'il ou elle partage son savoir dans un commentaire! Les seuls que je connaisse (et encore...) sont Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor et Emmanuel B. Dongala. C'est dire mon ignorance!
Quelques autres lueurs d'espoir pour des cours de français, mais rien de sûr. Je continue de faire passer le mot, j'appelle des gens, je laisse des messages. Une agence de traduction et de tutorat m'a appelé aujourd'hui en me donnant une adresse où envoyer mon CV. On verra ce que ça donne.
J'ai aussi une bonne nouvelle théâtrale à annoncer: faire un master en dramaturgie n'aura pas été en vain! Un des membres de la troupe m'a recruté pour faire du travail dramaturgique - c'est à dire de la recherche sur un sujet spécifique en vue d'un spectacle - pour une pièce qui ouvrira en avril. C'est une création originale avec comme personnage principal la figure mythique de Pan. Je suis, dans ce domaine aussi (mythologie) terriblement ignorante. Mais J.P (le metteur en scène de ce projet) a déjà beaucoup de bouquins qu'il voudrait que je décortique. Je suis assez contente d'avoir l'occasion de faire de la recherche appliquée à un projet précis et concret.
C'était assez drôle ce matin, quand JP m'a demandé si je pouvais l'aider:
JP: " Anne, you have a masters in dramaturgy, right?"
Anne: "Hmm... yes..."
JP: "Because I have some dramaturgical work for you to do for the Pan project."
Anne: "Oh! Ok, what would you want me to do, exactly?"
JP: "I don't know, you're the one who has a degree in dramaturgy!"(if he only knew...)"I have a lot of material about myths and stuff that I can get inspiration from, but need someone to go through the different stories, see what can be useful in the development of the script"....
I am still in awe at the fact that my degree is, in some way, useful to me right now. I honestly never thought that would be the case!
jeudi 24 septembre 2009
However, I still don't have a secondary job (of the kind where you actually get paid), and I'm starting to get worried. Not extremely worried, but a little bit, quand même. My plan was to give French lessons, but I don't know to what extent the citizens of Bethlehem, PA are desperately needing to learn French. Although I have had a few people enquiring about my services, nothing concrete (ie. a meeting) has emerged yet. And today, as I was checking Craigslist, lo and behold, someone was advertising French tutoring for 15 dollars an hour, when I suggested 20. Damn it! I've been outbid !!! How to undo my mistake? Write another craigslist ad, suggesting 15 dollars?
I also have other leads, but, there again, nothing much has come out of my efforts. Today, I printed some ads, and went around pinning them on bulletin boards (I was careful not to mention tarification). Since I'm not extremely gutsy and fear confrontation, I didn't always go into shops to convince the people there to put my ads in a prominent place in their boutiques. But I did manage to get ads pinned in a coffee shop, at the local supermarket, and at the local university. I will continue to sell myself (however awkwardly), and hope for a surge of francophiles desperately seeking my services for their lives to be complete - one can always dream... it's free! D'ailleurs, it has to be said that bulletin boards are underated. After all, that is how I got one really stable tutoring job which lasted two years, when I was at Royal Holloway university. Mrs Tan was going to Tesco, and BAM! she saw my ad. At which point she exclaimed (in her head) "How wonderful! It just so happens that my daughter needs extra help with her French. I'm going to take down this tutor's number, call her and give her a job!" And that was it. I was able to feel a little bit less of a useless student, and a little bit more like I was contributing towards my expenses (at something like 10 pounds an hour, an hour a week, It hardly paid for the entrance to the student's union, but you know, it was a first step in the right direction). Except that now, I'm not a student anymore, and I'm getting a bit old to rely solely on family help. Enfin bref. I hope someone will answer my call, and I will continue to search and think of other legal ways to make money.
Of course, if I knew how to drive and owned a car, the story would most likely be quite different. This will come as a surprise to no one, but it might be useful to reiterate that the USA is all about cars and roads. Even if one lives in a walkable city - which is my case - not having a car is a hindrance. In my fantasy picture of Bethlehem, I had grown to believe that it was a major city, a little bit like Philadelphia, but that no one knew it yet, because it hadn't been discovered... in the same way that a debutante actress isn't famous, not because she has no talent, but just because she hasn't been in the limelight long enough.
Well, in reality, Bethlehem is a nice-sized town, and there are things to do, sure, but it ain't Philly, sweetie. The transportation system limits itself to buses, and I will need to get a bike to be a bit more mobile.
Looking for some night time entertainment one evening (the TV in the house doesn't work, and we don't have an internet connection...), Zach - fellow apprentice and housemate- and I thought we'd go to a bar which promised open mic comedy. When we arrived, there was none of that. Just a bar, with a quirky bar girl. So, we had a few beers, and chuckled at the fact that we had moved far - him from Florida and me from Paris - to come to... Bethlehem. It is kind of funny, when you think about it. We really must be pretty hard-core theatre geeks to put all our faith in one little theatre. Or, just desperate to learn so that, one day, we may actually make a living out of theatre. Ha! That, actually, is the joke. Because who in their right mind would think that possible? Who in their right mind would want to put in so much work for so little instant gratification?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not having an existential crisis, wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life. On the contrary, I'm quite content being here, working for turnips in an old steel town. But I do wonder why I chose theatre in the first place. More precisely, I wonder why I rarely question my choice of working in that field. When did I choose to do this? There was no light-bulb moment, no amazing revelation, with a host of jazz-hand angels surrounding me and whispering Shakespeare verses in my ear... nope. Just a series of great experiences, year after year of original school plays. Those plays did the trick, I think. I loved every bit of the play, except maybe the auditions. I loved rehearsals - especially the ones that lasted all day in the delapidated tram station of the Pont de Sèvres. I loved dress rehearsals, and even tech rehearsals. And of course, performance time. And I absolutely hated the day after the final show. Back to reality was really, really hard.
I suppose I've wanted to replicate that school play feeling ever since. I think that's it. I got hooked! Completely and utterly hooked to the whole process. Theatre is my drug. That's why it can't just be a hobby, and that's why I need to keep on learning how to balance my life between theatre and the real world.
Man, I've been babbling. I apologise. Shorter entry next time, I promise!
dimanche 20 septembre 2009
I have heard so many people say that they fell in love with Paris, or Philadelphia, or Spain, or New Orleans, or Berlin... I wonder what leads us to have special affinities with places. Does it have something to do with the energy? The colors? Some distant childhood memory that invites itself subconsciously in our appreciation of a new place? Whatever it is, it's a real feeling. As unfathomable as human love, as random. You can't really choose with whom you click, nor can you decide with what you interlock... I really wish I clicked easily with Paris, but it'll always be a love you/love you not relationship between us. That's the way it is. I have to accept it, and move on. That doesn't mean I won't end up living there happily, but it does mean that there will always be something about Paris that I will want to change. On the other hand, the places with which I really click don't ever need to change for me to love them unconditionally. I realize how dirty Dublin is and even how racist its taxi drivers are, but I still click with that Liffey city. That doesn't mean I'll go back, either. It just means that, to me, Dublin is one of my very favorite places. So is Brittany. Irrationnal and most certainly annoying to the people who don't agree with me. Mais les goûts et les couleurs, ainsi que les villes préférées, ne se discutent pas!
I'm starting to feel that specific clicking feeling with Touchstone Theatre. It's only been a week, and yet... that stage is no stranger. The offices are welcoming. The café inviting and friendly. Everything about it says to me that I will like it here. The people are warm without being phony. They are theatre professionals, all about performance, yet remain elegantly private. Theatre is regarded as beautiful, dangerous, fragile, worth loosing money for, worth promoting, worth a life of very hard work. The building is flooded with light, until you step into the 75 seat theatre. There, you wait to be flooded with the warm lights of the projectors, and surrounded by beautiful stories.
I wouldn't describe this move to the United States as easy; it definitely came with some sacrifice. In no ways will this internship year be easy, either. My fellow apprentice and I were warned, from the very first day, that we were going to face some serious challenges. But easy is not what we're aiming for, really. Or maybe it is. But the easy we're looking for is the one that comes from "ease". It's the way in which two parts fit with ease, once they have met. Because they were meant to fit together, because they click.
dimanche 13 septembre 2009
I'm moving to Bethlehem tomorrow.
Off I go to a new town,
Off I go to a new place,
Off I go.
I know it'll be fine. I know it'll be great.
If a part of me still wants to hide,
Another part of me can't wait.
I'm moving to Bethlehem tomorrow.
Off I go to meet new people,
Off I go to learn my art,
Off I go.
Experiences to pick, discoveries all new
I only hope I'll seize them quick,
Won't let them go unused.
I'm moving to Bethlehem tomorrow.
Off I go with a smile,
Off I go with gratefulness,
Off I go.
jeudi 10 septembre 2009
It looks amazing, and will probably become my online recipe book for this year!
mercredi 9 septembre 2009
Standing at the top of the hill, I beat myself up mentally for having forgotten my camera. It was one of those times where, as I was looking at the cemetery, and the fields, and the sky, I already had an idea for a composition, and I just needed the camera to be the extension of my eye. But it wasn't there, so all I could do was look as hard as I could, and absorb what I was seeing without being able to externalize it onto something beyond my own mind. Photography is all about catching the moment. And when the moment is lost, when time has flown by without being able to immortalize mere seconds, there's a heightened sense of frustration. If only I had brought my camera...
But this sense of loss shouldn't only be felt with photography. How many times have I not expressed myself when I so desperately needed to? Wanting to write but being overcome by laziness, or using excuses like lack of time, or deciding to watch whatever tv show I could catch on youtube instead of making the effort to go beyond the surface of life? There too, moments were lost. What needed to come out didn't. I didn't act on that creative impulse, so nothing came out of it. This time, I thought I'd describe the scene. No camera, but words, and memory. To remember the stillness and mystery of the graveyard, and to bring what I had seen out there for others to imagine.
jeudi 27 août 2009
Ville industrielle, avec certains monstres de bâtiments maintenant inutiles, mais fascinants à photographier.
Un effort concerté pour donner un deuxième souffle à la ville après le déclin de l'industrie lourde d'acier.
Et enfin, petite photo inaugurale du théâtre dans lequel je vais travailler...
I'm starting to get really excited about this year. An odd sense of calm, now that I saw the town, the theatre and the house. Things are going to be ok.
I'm in DC, taking the day off from travels and activities. Taking the day to do what I do so well, and that is... not much besides keeping myself entertained with writing, reading and perhaps watching a dvd later, if I feel like it. I realise many people aren't like this. It seems like a lot of people don't necessarily need "low times". Or maybe they do, but don't realise it. When my mother left the appartment, she asked me what I was going to do, and suggested that I could go to the pool (my uncle and aunt live in a complex where there is a pool and many other fancy things like a gym and even a coffee shop). Yes, I guess I could. But that would defeat the purpose of having a day off, having a day when you don't do things just for the sake of doing them. A day when you just hang out with yourself. Perhaps, if I actually enjoyed going to the pool, I would feel like going. But, really, I don't, so it most probably ain't gonna happen!
Instead of swimming and getting exercise, I'm reading the book Eat, Pray, Love which was so sweetly sent from New Orleans by my sister. I'm enjoying it very much, but Elizabeth Gilbert, the author and narrator, gets on my nerves, a little, sometimes. She's a bullient, chatty, sometimes self-absorbed (or overly self-deprecating? I'm not sure which yet) American in search of spirituality. The subtitle of the book goes like this : " One woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia". And indeed, it does seem like Liz Gilbert is looking for everything, namely peace and purpose and a sense of feeling complete. In order to find those things, she stops by Italy to find pleasure, India to meditate and find Peace -or in her words : God - and Indonesia to try and combine worldly pleasures with transcendance. It's an ambitious project, and a worthy one, too. That may be why I would like her to write in a slightly less pedestrian way. Call me old-fashionned, but if I'm reading a book about praying, I don't expect and necessarily want to be so entertained. Eat Pray Love is an entertaining read, but not a profound and deep one. I don't think it will transform me, although it has instructed me on Yoga practises and the ways of meditation. But Gilbert's writing is too chatty. It still wants to seduce. She wants to be loved through her writing, instead of just saying things without fear of judgement. I haven't finished the book yet, so I might be surprised to see that Gilbert's writing has more impact on me than I'm willing to admit. And it is reassuring to hear such a fresh voice candidly sharing her turmoil and quest for calm in her life. But I'm pretty sure that she's one of those people who has difficulties taking "low times" just to chill. She actually admits it, blaming in part her American culture :
"Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. [...] Americans don't really know how to do nothing."
Of course, I can find Americans who know how to relax. By generalizing, without giving hard evidence for her claim, Gilbert is weakening her argument. But, on the other hand, I see what she means. Having been raised in France, I know how to enjoy a meal. That basically means eating delicious food, talking with friends for endless hours, and not doing much else than that. Such times are beautiful, deeply cherished moments. And I'm really really not sure that I would know how to thoroughly enjoy a meal if I had been raised in the USA. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.
Have I ever mentionned that I'm very happy being Franco-American? Well, I am! Best of both worlds, if it weren't for all that water between them...
mardi 18 août 2009
Because this dish contains no beaten egg whites, it is not a true soufflé the name is derived from its light airy texture. Similar in color and flavor to sweet potato casserole, it pairs well with ham or turkey.
8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)
7 cups chopped carrot (about 2 pounds)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cook carrot in boiling water 15 minutes or until very tender; drain. Place carrot in a food processor; process until smooth. Add granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (granulated sugar through eggs); pulse to combine.
Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until puffed and set. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
mercredi 12 août 2009
lundi 3 août 2009
(these engravings graced the walls of the Rosa Parks library)
The Dexter avenue King memorial baptist church is very close to the Alabama State capitol, and that's where Martin Luther King jr preached from 1954 to 1960. People were just coming out of church, and it was nice to see the elegant ladies chatting as well the kids running around.
We were there on a sunday, early afternoon, so the streets were deserted and all shops closed. The downtown part of Montgomery is economically depressed : stores boarded up along mainstreet. But there's also a certain grandeur to the city, with elegant state buildings and fountains.
Montgomery isn't the kind of place tourists come to visit. But it's one of those stops that gives you the feeling of travelling. The sort of travelling that brings you to another place, outside your comfort zone, your usual routine.
Home of Margaret Mitchell, the Braves (a baseball team), CNN and ... Coca-Cola!
The city of Atlanta seems to be proud to be the home of Gone with the Wind, which can easily be branded as the model of the Southern epic/romance/war novel. I can't thank Juliette enough for having given me that book for my birthday last year!
Now, on a less intellectual - but nonetheless very cultural - note, here's a glimpse of the Coca-cola footprint in the Atlanta landscape:
Not such an inelegant building, might I add, if it weren't for that coke bottled encased in its very own tower. I mean, really?? In this building, there is - of course - a Coca-Cola museum (which we had visited when I was 13, and decided we remembered it well enough) and a huge gift shop. There's also the founder of Coke who is there to greet visitors, or to force them to drink the brown stuff, I'm not exactly sure which:
I guess every civilisation has its own set of inspirational characters...
But this blog entry might be showing Atlanta in a slightly derivative light. It's actually a very enjoyable town, with pretty parks and many valuable cultural institutions. We were there during the Black arts festival and were greeted by a jazz band. I was also struck by the beautiful sculptures scattered around the central part of the city.
samedi 1 août 2009
Noticing a cute café, we went in and were served by a young high school girl who seemed to come straight out of the latest cheerleading movie, except that she was actually smart and friendly, with a singing southern accent and dreams of becoming a model, going to Paris and Rome. Then comes in this young high school guy, with a computer under his arm and a tee shirt that has some computer joke along the lines of "who reboots your hard drive?". He was just coming into the café to hang out and chat up the pretty girl at the counter. So, we ended up talking to him too. He didn't seem too happy about the new Wal Mart being built in the outskirts of town, fearing for local business and community. I was quite impressed to hear a teenager talk like that, since most of the american kids I had spoken to before, when I was a teenager myself, were all very excited about wal marts, rather than worried. After nice conversation and copious amounts of coffee, as well as a nice bagel with cream cheese, we were on the road again, direction Atlanta.
Here are a few photos of Oxford:
mercredi 29 juillet 2009
Despite the jet lag, my sister, mother and I are making our way by car into the deep south. We left Washington D.C this morning, stopped by Richmond, Virginia to see the grandparents, and are now in a motel in good old Oxford. Tomorrow, we hope to get to Atlanta in a timely fashion to visit with our cousin. So, I guess we could call this a family road trip! I haven't yet taken vast amounts of pictures, but I hope to catch a few roadside oddities along the way.
Unfortunately, the american landscape has gotten more and more uniform, with fast food restaurants and strip malls colonizing the road side. It's therefore less obvious to find small and shabby stores coming straight out of Thelma and Louise or Easy Rider. The film Broken Flowers might be a more accurate depiction of the contemporary road trip experience, since Bill Murray travels from state to state passing by the same chain restaurants and hotels.
But the South of the US remains specific to itself, especially with the singing accents and the affectionate politeness. "You take care, now, sweetheart" or " You're welcome, darling" are just a few examples of the southern manner.
And, although there is a sense of uniformisation, some quirky intitutions still remain. In Richmond, we had lunch in a diner called "Debbie's kitchen", where the owner was this trim lady with a patched eye, and the waitress a smooth blonde woman with a lovely smile. Seeing those two opposite characters, I was reminded of Carson McCuller's short story The Ballad of the Sad Café. And opposite the restaurant stood this general store, elegant and shabby at the same time.
I'll end this post with the anecdote of the day...: When checking into a motel for the night, my mother mentions that she lives in France, to explain something about her credit card ( the adress, probably). And, lo and behold, where else could the receptionist have lived from 4 to 9 years old but... Maison Laffite?
samedi 25 juillet 2009
A time of beauty and sharing. And passion. And sadness, a little, too.
Although uncertainty shows its squishy nose, we resist.
We don't know, do we? No.
We'll see. We'll live and see.
Not always so easy, but we try
lundi 22 juin 2009
I have been talking too much these last few days. And, in many social circumstances, I don't talk as much as I babble. I don't babble as much as I laugh and breathe in the middle of my sentence and... never finish it. I annoy myself with my lack of oral clarity. I wish I could be less fucking awkward! Excuse my language, but really. I do.
The thing is, when I talk, I have to take many things in consideration:
- First off, I have to think about what I'm saying. That's not as easy as it seems. If someone asks me something, I have to think about it. But, when you're talking, you don't have that much time to think. You just have to say. Produce words, construct sentences, build arguments... all while you're thinking about how you're going to keep on talking about something you often don't even give a shit about.
- I also have to pay attention to the person who's listening. Maybe I worry too much about meaningless stuff, but I have this fear of boring people to tears. So, if I get the impression that the person is really not interested in what I'm saying, I'm going to continue talking but while doing so, I will try to find ways to gracefully end the conversation, or ask a pertinent question so that I can shut up and let other people do the talking.
- There are many times when I talk and people stop listening. I don't actually get offended, because sometimes I myself don't actually know if I'm still talking or just uttering syllables that don't make much sense.
- It's not always that bad. When I've prepped myself, when I've coached myself to speak correctly and not to stop in the middle of a thought, or digress, or just stop because I'm tired of the sound of my voice, then, I can sustain decent conversation.
- Of course, sometimes, I'm actually interested in the topic , and have relatively instructive things to add to the conversation pot. Unfortunately, such moments are rare. But they are cherished.
- In my mind, conversations really should be between two people. Maybe three, sometimes. But no more. I don't like talking to impress. It's too much pressure. I like to talk to communicate. And you can only communicate with one person at a time, right?
- I'm just starting to use jokes as ways to avoid talking too much. When you crack a joke, it makes people laugh, it places you on the "conversation map", but you don't actually have to say much. I like it.
- In one of my theatre classes this year, the professor invented this conversation machine. Basically, everyone has a different role - the conversation starter, the one who always agrees, or disagrees, or tells anecdotes, etc - , and if each person keeps that role, then the conversation can be sustained indefinitely. It shows how much talking is as much about role playing as it is about expressing thoughts or emotions.
- Writing really is the way to go.
dimanche 14 juin 2009
Aspirations swirl around and around
Vacuming the inside of my skull
Who knew life would bring these things today
Certainly not I, should think to say
Apparently, that's how it goes
After a bit of a lull
A sudden shock reveals
We're finding ourselves led
By a "wind of change",
Perhaps a breeze of vacillations
Why am I thinking now
Of the staircase leading to the beach
Oscillations of the brain,
Between two things,
Two states of mind.
Two? Ney, many. Many more
It has been said by Deleuze and his pal Guattari
Towards the next point.
vendredi 12 juin 2009
But I must admit I'm actually exhausted, since I only slept a few hours last night and didn't take a nap, and now it's midnight and a half, and I'm still not sleeping! So, I'm not going to attempt to write something tonight. However, here are some photos I took with my phone recently. These last few days, the weather has been strange and quite to my liking : rain, sun and textured clouds.
Photos du sol mouillé directement inspirées par William Eggleston