Over the past four years, perhaps no aspect of our community has been hit harder by the economic downturn than education. Often, academic budgets are balanced on the backs of elective and extra-curricular programs, leaving a large hole in the well-rounded education that modern students need to succeed in this ever-evolving, innovation-based global economy. In response to cuts in foreign language and performing arts programs, one Atlanta theater company is uniquely positioning itself to provide an opportunity for students and schools to fill these gaps.
According to Théâtre du Rêve’s website, Atlanta’s only French-language theater company strives “to create a true dialogue between American and French-speaking artists,” and is currently redesigning and redoubling its education efforts. According to Théâtre du Rêve, these programs have been constructed, “to bring French language and culture directly to students… Schools have had to make drastic cuts to arts programming and to decrease funding to take school children on field trips. Therefore, kids have fewer and fewer creative, live, hands-on experiences, outlets and inspiration. We want to bring it to them.”
Beginning with Été des Rêves, their first annual summer camp, Théâtre du Rêve will be unveiling an impressive, all-encompassing collection of educational programs that cater to the needs of students of all ages, as well as teachers. “The beauty of this program is that it spans from elementary through universities in order to share art through French language,” says Caitlin Roe, Théâtre du Rêve Education Director.
In April, Théâtre du Rêve previewed its new education efforts by launching a mini-tour of Georges Feydeau’s Puppy Love (Fiancés en Herbe), with performances at Emory University, the Paideia School, and the Atlanta International School. The farce, performed by professional actors, can be performed in multiple ways, depending on the age and French-language experience of the audience.
According to Roe, often the play is performed first in French, followed by an audience talkback. After discussing what the students were able to understand in the French version, the play is subsequently performed either in a combination of French and English, or completely in English. This unique presentation style allows the production to be tailored to students of varying ages with wide levels of exposure to both French and theater, says Roe.
Additional education programs include residencies of their popular production of The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge), which is performed in a combination of French and English. The residency production is directed by Park Cofield, the play’s adapter and original director, and features two professional cast members. In a continued effort to meet the needs of students where ever they may be, Théâtre du Rêve can adapt these residencies to fit a school’s budget and circumstances.
Some of the other exciting aspects of the theater’s new educational efforts include a fall tour of theaters, schools, and universities in Northeastern states that will include workshops, performances, and lectures. Théâtre du Rêve also offers workshops for local teachers that will not only focus on integrating French into theatrical performances, but also on how to include aspects of performance into any foreign language lesson.
Été du Rêve, the theater’s new summer camp, runs from July 9 to 13 at the Lovett School, and is open to students ages 11 to 18. The camp will include workshops designed to strengthen the students’ skills in both English and French theater and daily workshops with guest artists, capped off by students creating “their own original piece of bi-lingual theatre based on a short piece of classical French literature.”
By: Matt Tamanini