Based on popular demand, IES Abroad Paris BIA launched a Theater Club this semester. Now, students with advanced French language skills interested in attending plays and learning about the history of theater in France have an extracurricular opportunity to do so.
The club held its first event at Le Procope, a café located at 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, near Odéon.
Why the Procope?
Founded in 1686, the Procope is the oldest café in Paris. It is located across the street from the original Comédie Francaise, founded in 1680 (seven years after the death of French playwright and actor Molière) after having been commissioned by King Louis XIV.
As a meeting place for writers, philosophers, and revolutionaries, it has conserved its décor, which evokes the 18th century, in particular the French Revolution.
The club members discussed the café’s famous clients (think Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, Georges Danton, Maximilien de Robespierre, Benjamin Franklin…). Legend has it that the young Napoléon Bonaparte traded his hat in exchange for a meal, and that it still resides there today.
What have they learned?
The group discussed theater in France from the Middle Ages to the end of the 17th century, which is the century of theater—Molière, Pierre Corneille, and Jean Racine continue to be considered France’s greatest authors. However, playwrights’ conditions were very hard at that time: no copyrights, an obligation to depend on sponsors who were sometimes quite capricious (ex: Louis XIV), risk of excommunication from the Catholic Church, and more.
What have they seen?
After the Procope, the group headed to Old Paris, the one Molière knew, down rue Mazarine to the Palais du Louvre. Passing by the Institut de France (home of the Académie Francaise), the group crossed the Seine on the Pont des Arts, whose railings are crumbling under the weight of the locks attached to them, and headed toward the Comédie Francaise Theater, where they plan to return later in the semester to see the play Antigone by Jean Anouilh. The group met for a second time on Wednesday, October 1, to see Le Médecin malgé lui by Molière.
Vive le théâtre!