While the Festival d’Avignon is in full swing, students from the Ecole de la Comédie de Saint-Etienne have brought lectures by contemporary authors to life at the Maison Jean Vilar. An auditory experience and an immersive installation.
“A lecture can be long. But there were a lot of people, we didn’t expect it,” rejoices Lucas, 21, a freshman at the Ecole de la Comédie de Saint-Etienne – the oldest house in a National Drama Center. Last week he performed four texts for “The Twelve Hours of the Authors” with his entire class of twelve people., an event of the “Festival In” of Avignon. Despite the heat, the lectures, meetings and displays drew an interested audience.
Reading text in the heart of the “Festival In” in Avignon
The texts by contemporary authors were pre-selected by Artcena, the National Center for Circus, Street and Theater Arts. “One is a testimony of young people living in the suburbs, the second is a very stylized – almost absurd – text on the Bible, another is about American Indians and colonization, and the last is a kind of thriller, a rewrite of Hamlet,” says Luke.
After reading, the actors-to-be could discuss with the authors, Sandrine Roche, Métie Navajo, Nicolas Girard-Michelotti and Ahmed Madami. “It was great to be able to talk to them. As a performer, you ask yourself a lot of questions about writing when you’re doing it,” says Lucas. “They were very moved, it was nice to have them back,” added Raphaël, 22. Both attended the conservatory in theater before going to the School of Comedy in Saint-Etienne.
A week of preparation for student actors
The twelve students were accompanied by actress Anne Alvaro, who helped them work out the lyrics beforehand. “We had a week of reading preparation,” Lucas says. On the menu, diffusion of fragments, work of interpretation, individual or collective, to the rhythm and style of the writings, the four are very different.
“We were the first to hear the authors’ lyrics. We had fun making things, but the goal wasn’t to see us as actors”, recalls Raphaël for whom it was “quite destabilizing to tell ourselves that we are going to regulate the language and work of such a person”. he read the stage directions, these notes by the author in his text that give clues about the action, the image, the interpretation or the decoration…
Enter the dressing rooms of a hologram artist
The students of the Comédie de Saint-Etienne also took part in an installation by Joris Mathieu and Nicolas Boudier, “Les Loges”, in collaboration with the New Generations Theater (TNG) in Lyon. The immersive device, installed in the house Jean Vilar at the Festival d’Avignon until July 26, has been worked on all year round : “The spectator enters the dressing rooms of an actor or actress who begins to rehearse his text, Raphaël presents. Each student chooses a text that appeals to him, and then performs it in front of the camera with the TNG team.”
This results in a “installation in a black box where you appear as a hologram. Each monologue lasts three minutes“, explains Lucas. After Avignon, this device will be installed in the Comédie de Saint-Etienne and will have to shoot in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
The students made the most of their quick visit to the City of the Popes. “I had never been to Avignon, it’s really the theater festival so it was very impressive“, confides Raphaël. Everyone could attend one or two shows and meet authors and actors. “In the first year of school we normally never play in front of an audience!, adds the student actor. This year we were a bit spoiled.”