We have 2 weeks for our next ‘auto-cours’. After the first 3 I did not think the stakes could be raised higher but they have been. Like the first season of good reality TV series, we have been given a more complex assignment.
Instead of groups of 5 or 7, we are now to work in a group of 35; 35 with a bare haiku of an assignment and no director and no script. Find a place ( in this case a French ‘place’ which means a plaza or piazza) and create a 15 minute piece showing the life that exists there. We are to examine the place over 24 hours and observe the commerce, the relationships, the waiting, the homeless, the children, anything and create an event that is honest and engaging. We will occupy the entire ‘grande salle’ (the main classroom) and the audience will wander among us.
In a rush after last Friday’s performances we gathered and quickly settled on 3 places to vote on – or rather the Parisians among us proposed 3 places. I was familiar with none of them and my suggestions were dismissed as too touristic. Already I could sense a pecking order of leaders and followers – many of us mostly lost behind the screen of language. Later in the day I sought out the places listed and was disappointed to find them all rather urban and utilitarian.( I was imagining the lovely place in Lyon where we played boule last summer. It had a bar and a pharmacie and could have been a set for a French version of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I suppose I am a little sentimental still when it comes to France.) After a last minute proposal and e mail skirmish that seemed to go nowhere we were to vote on one of three. Less than half did – I think due to the hurried nature of the situation. But in the end the group settled on Place Jules Joffrin.
It is on the north side of the ‘butte’ of Montmartre – a bit farther down from the touristic center around Sacre Cour. The place has a grand Marie (town hall for the Clignancourt arrondisement) on one side and a church on the other. The sides have 2 bars and a few real estate agents and banks. Altogether not a bad choice, though with 3 bus stops and a metro station dead center, it is a very busy spot. My concern was that most people there seemed to be passing through rather quickly and unlikely to hang around and create something dramatic. There are only 2 benches and a small carousel – as well as a newspaper kisok, crepe stand and public telephones. I have visited 3 times now and taken time to sketch the place from different angles. I have also created a plan view on my computer to e mail to the group – mostly to let them know I am on board. This afternoon I met a few of our team there and they all seemed far more blase about the whole situation. Most were still recovering from last night’s ‘fete-ing’. One girl had had her iphone stolen out of her hand, been roughed up after chasing the thief, and then fined 40 euros for riding the metro without a ticket. Others were simply hungover. I am still finding my place in this mix of 20 somethings, aging yoga teachers and massuers, rising auteurs and wandering souls.