Bringing Bilingual Theater to Atlanta
The team at Théâtre du Rêve (Theater of the Dream), the only Francophone theater company in the United States, doesn’t just love French theater: it goes beyond that.
“We have the opportunity to do really important work,” says Anna Richardson, TdR’s Director of Marketing and Development, who teaches theater education as well. “Years ago, I interned in Paris for a theater company that provided improvisation classes for disadvantaged teenagers, and I saw firsthand that the concepts and skills that improv and theater teach—cooperation, communication, adaptation among others, are crucial for development and success. I had kids tell me they performed better in school and were more confident in general.”
Caitlin Roe, Executive Director of TdR, who has been taking theater workshops into French classes for years, has seen how well language and theater interact.
“Sitting in a classroom memorizing vocabulary and verb forms isn’t the most effective way to immerse kids in a new language/culture,” she explains. “By getting them out of their desks and onto their feet to experience language through theater, we teach them to connect emotionally to the language so that the vocabulary physically becomes part of them. Moreover, we teach educators to implement interactive learning styles in the classroom and provide them with the knowledge and resources to do so.”
Roe, who created the company’s bilingual theater intensive camp, has received overwhelming responses from parents and teachers reporting the positive impact that TdR’s workshops and camp intensives have had on their children and students.
“I hear about confidence boosts, I have parents tell me that they were blown away by how much their child blossomed in just one week…it’s really rewarding,” Roe says.
Like Roe and Richardson, Artistic Director/Actress Park Krausen is passionate about giving back to the community, hence why she developed Jane, le renard et moi (Jane, the Fox and Me) an adaptation of a graphic novel that addresses bullying behavior. She invited partners from the Ben Marion Institute for Social Justice to train touring artists to mindfully host post-show workshops on the topic. She believes in empathy and the power of theater.
“When students see themselves onstage, we are able to spark and engage them in meaningful dialogues about themselves, their community and the larger world, beginning with Francophone nations from around the globe,” she says. All three women are fluent in French, and believe strongly in the bilingual nature of the company.
“Not only are we able to bring Francophone works to Atlanta and into schools,” says Krausen, who collaborates constantly with artists from Canada, Belgium and Haiti. “But the research shows that people who are bilingual have an advantage.” (see the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). TdR has two bilingual touring productions—Jane, the Fox and Meand Fables Fantastiques!, which spans fables from five Francophone countries—as well as acting and improv classes coming up in the Fall. Keep an eye out for the World Premiere of international collaboration Celles d’en haut (Women on Top), September 11-20 at 7 Stages Theater, and the master classes/workshops they’re holding in conjunction with the production. “We’re all about continuing the conversation, outside the theater, into classrooms, rippling as far and wide as we can carry it,” says Kruasen.
All three women agree.
For more information, visit Theatre Du Reve at TdRATL.org