Classes started yesterday at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq. We spent an hour or so registering and introducing ourselves – there appear to be between 60 and 70 students – most in the early 20s, a few in their thirties, and I fear only one approaching 50…
The school is a large atelier on Rue de Faubourg St. Denis north of the Marais and not far from my apartment – a complete coincidence. It was once a boxing studio; photos of a few matches form the 1920s line the halls. (I wonder if one of the fights Hemingway writes about in THE SUN ALSO RISES was at this place.) The architecture is older and it must have first been a factory or business of some sort.
The students are from around the world – from Norway to Turkey to China. French and Anglophiles – UK, US, Australia - are well represented but don’t dominate. We began with a movement class with the entire group and then divided in half for improvisation and and individual projects. Each Friday smaller groups will present simple improvisations for which we have an hour each day to prepare. Today was more of the same. 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. My body can’t yet quite do what they asking – maybe, by the end of the term – and in the improvisation I feel some of the terror I did when I acted in college. I am familiar with most of the principles – they are similar to what we have worked on in Lyon and not far from what American schools teach – play, conversation, being alive in the moment, specificity.
Our improvisation teacher today was a bit tougher but he had 2 memorable comments. After many were having trouble successfully improvising an imagined trip to the public ‘piscine’, he asked how could we play Shakespeare if we couldn’t play a swimming pool. He also said that an audience has an ascending expectation of a performance as he angled his hand; if it begins frenetically and doesn’t change, they become bored.
In addition, I am taking their LEM course (Laboratory of Movement Study) which is geared toward artists and designers. That starts tonight. 7 hours a week.
Yesterday afternoon I made my way to Montparnesse to see the house Edith Wharton lived in for a decade after she had abandoned her husband and the US. It was a large stone neoclassical building in a forbidding area with mostly embassies now – a bit removed from the Hausmann Boulevards with their lively cafes. While there, she assisted the French during WWI in relief efforts and received the Legion D’Honor. Later, in the 20s, she split her time between the Cote D’Azure and a chateau outside Paris. It was during this time that she wrote her most popular novels – THE AGE OF INNOCENCE and others less good but no less popular. Henry James had commented that Edith was able to buy an expensive German car with the proceeds of her new novel. From his latest book, he thought he might be able to buy a wagon. He hoped that with the proceeds from his next that he could re-paint it.
The streets were rather narrow with not a tree in sight. Afterwards, I sat at a small cafe and worked on my french – it was great to be finally without a teacher. I wandered back to the right bank past the antique shops and art galleries of St. Germain de Pres. If you win the lottery I can give you some hints about where to dispose of your loot.