New York is an artistic mecca, at the crossroads of music and film, among other expressions, but that does not mean that all the gaps are filled. Upon her visit to New York City as a teenager, Roxane Revon realized that there weren’t many options for her to pursue her passion for French theater, so what did she do? Created L’Atelier Théâtre, a space for children and adults, francophone or not, to pursue their dreams of being on stage, with a French twist.
What do you attribute to your success?
The success of the Atelier Theatre is attributed to the fact that it provides not only French drama classes, but also a convivial atmosphere for people to meet and share the same language (and sometime common interests). Promotion through word-of-mouth has worked very well because we also offer our participants the opportunity to perform in a real NYC off-off Broadway theater for 1 or 2 weeks.
What inspired you to start L’Atelier Théâtre?
When I directed "Huis Clos/No Exit" by Sartre, I saw that an audience in NYC was ready to come and see smaller theater productions (versus the FIAF ones) in French with English subtitles. Furthermore, friends of mine and people in the audience started telling me that they tried some theater workshops in English but that they had less fun than in their previous “atelier” experiences in France or Belgium. It was difficult for the to improvise in a foreign language and very few workshops aimed to produce a play at the end of the sessions. So, with 7 first participants, I started my first French drama workshop based on the performance of a play ( "L'Hotel du libre échange/Hotel Paradiso" by Feydeau) at the end of the session, in May 2013.
What differentiates it from other similar programs in New York?
There are very few structures that provide drama workshops in French like us. We also produce real shows at the end of the sessions at the 4th Street Theater (a nice old 70 seats theater in the East Village), and we choose a different author or theme each year (Don Juan in 2014, Molière in 2015, Feydeau in 2016). I think we are the only NYC non-profit organization to provide that for both adults and children. This year for instance, from May 18th to 22nd, our adult workshops will present 6 performances of 2 Feydeau's play ("Le Dindon"/"La Dame de chez Maxim), and our kids' workshop will perform an adapted play "Les Filles de M. Mathieu".
What is your average day like?
It depends on the day because on Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach drama all day at CUNY University, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I teach at L'Atelier Theatre. I try to keep a routine. I wake up at around 7:30/8am; I write some ideas or texts for 1 hour max, and then my day starts at around 9.30am with admin, emails or teaching. Because I'm also starting a Phd, I try to separate some time every day to read or write.
What are your next goals for the théatre?
I'd like for l'Atelier Theatre to provide more workshops for kids or to have more interactions with schools. Furthermore, with my associate Laura Lassy, we'd like to be a small bridge between francophone theater and NYC and invite or produce professional plays (but we'll need some grants in order to do so).
How is it different working with children and adults?
The development and the timing of the workshop is different, but the preparation needs are the same. For children, I need to find a balance between concentration and excitement. I develop their concentration by first focusing on games and scenes that they might like, making them imagine, at each session, what their experience will be on stage in May. Then, even if I plan to work on certain scenes, I adapt the work to what they suggest as well, by way they act and embody their characters. For adults, we can go further regarding precise directing cues. We push them to find different colorations for their characters, so they can experience, the practice of acting as much as possible.