The IES Abroad Nantes Program offers a variety of courses taught entirely in French, from Gastronomy to Translation, but the most interactive course is without a doubt TH 343: Theater Production. You read that right! Theater Production. No, we’re not sitting at desks in the IES center analyzing French comedies— we’re rehearsing for a live performance, every Tuesday from 15:15 to 18:15 at La Thêâtre Ruche. A performance in French.

The ten IES students enrolled in the theater class form an all American cast. Our director is a professional French performer from the troupe at La Thêâtre Ruche, a small theater not ten minutes from Nantes’ city center. He guides us through theatrical warm-ups, corrects our French pronunciation, and demonstrates how to deliver our lines for the ultimate comedic effect (imagine Saturday Night Live). Our production for the semester is titled La Galerie. It’s not your typical play, but a collection of original skits written by our professor based on a series of paintings, such as Edouard Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and Paul Cézanne’s Les Joueurs de cartes. Each student performs in three scenes, one brief two-person exposition, one larger scene inspired by a painting, and a final, intentionally chaotic skit featuring the entire class.

By far, the most difficult part of the class is studying and memorizing our French text. I won’t lie, some of the humor still floats over my head. But the goal of the class is not to become well-versed in French comedy or paintings— it’s to improve our French pronunciation and articulation. As we recite our lines, our professor corrects this word or that, making sure we’re not just comprehensible to a French audience, but confident in our delivery. Having always been rather self-conscious of my American accent, this class has made me confident whether I’m wailing French phrases in an imitation of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, or merely conversing with my host family about the nutritional benefits of peanut butter.

Did I mention that our performance will be open to the French public? This coming Tuesday our host families, fellow IES friends, and curious passersby are welcome to fill the red velvet seats in the La Salle Sémaphore concert hall to see what we’ve been working on all semester. Few people can say that they’ve performed on a French stage— What an opportunity!

It’s almost time to break a leg, so I’m off to rehearse my lines! If you’d like a glimpse of our rehearsal process, check out this video of our class last Tuesday:

Our TH 343 class last Tuesday

Published by rachael.grochowski

Class of 2022 English Literature and Japanese Studies Double Major, French Minor IES Nantes, France

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