The Illustre-stage story started in 2002, from an inspired conversation amongst colleagues. “What if we put our students on stage?” To my surprise, the idea quickly developed into a real project. A few weeks later we had a cast and we were rehearsing “Spectacle dans un Bistro”, a staged collection of French poetry. This experience proved that with a lot of enthusiasm and good will, what seemed to be an overwhelming extra-curricular project could come to life. Illustre-stage was born. As a professor of French I strive to make French culture appealing and accessible to as many people as possible, whether they can speak the language or not. Illustre-stageallows me to do just that. By creating and staging bilingual spectacles (“French cultural shows”) I am able to present French culture in an entertaining way. At the same time, the projects provide our ACC students and alumni, and others too, with an opportunity to connect or reconnect with the arts, and use their French knowledge in a completely different context.

Illustre-stage is a “floating” project because it is not a formal ACC program. As a result, carving our place into the calendar of regularly scheduled classes and other theater and dance shows for use of the facilities has proved a challenge. Thankfully, we have found some great support with the Drama department’s chair who has always graciously tried her best to help us, and above all with the dean of Arts & Humanities whose support, financial (some) and moral (a lot) is invaluable.

Some people say art is not necessary, and the world would go on without it. Maybe so. But because art may not be strictly necessary, these projects show the true colors of those who take part, their integrity, strength, and determination not to let the rest of the team down. It also gives those participants a “different” place to go, an unusual artistic and cultural thing to do, and an incredible opportunity to explore their (hidden) talents and limits. Based on their postproduction feedback that you can read (“students speak”), I think they all keep the experience in their hearts as a happy place to go to.

And if you come see our shows, whatever your French background, I promise you that you will understand what’s going on. I promise you that you will be entertained and that you will even take home with you a little piece of French culture that wedged itself into the show, in a sneaky little way. The name Illustre-stage is a respectful wink at Molière whose own company was named L’illustre Théâtre.

Austin, le 30 janvier 2011.
Véronique Mazet, PhD.
Professor of French, Adjunc