Grenoble Life talks to Hélène Perrin-Gouron, Vicki Bernard and Katie Coakley – aka Wing It Productions – a new English theatre group for secondary school pupils in and around Grenoble.
Grenoble Life: Who is Wing It Productions?
Hélène Perrin-Gouron: Three passionate women who have always loved and done some theater; one French having lived in the US, one English, and one Irish.
Vicki Bernard: Sounds like the beginning of a joke…
Katie Coakley: Oh thanks, ladies. I’m the Irish one (‘wanting desperately’ to change the subject)! We’re part of the abc anglais association, which aims at helping people ‘learn, improve or maintain their level of English in the most natural manner’. Our goal is to open this theatre activity to the entire secondary school community in and around Grenoble.
Hélène: That is… for this first year. I have the High School population (15-18/19) in mind too, the college students, etc.
GL: What is the philosophy of the group?
Vicki: Having worked so often with young people, we have really been able to see how much the theatre can bring them in terms of self-confidence, team-work (relying on others), their creativity and imagination.
Katie: The fact that we use English purely as a vehicle means that they improve their English without even realising it.
Hélène: I would add to this that one of the most positive things to come out of the work with young ones is the bonding that they experience. The show becomes bigger than every single one of them, and us.
Katie: Very much so! It also eradicates the age differences.
GL: What ideas do you have for your first productions?
Katie: Although we’re going to keep that secret, we can say that we’re going down the comedy road.
Vicki: Our lips are sealed.
GL: What have some of the major challenges been getting started and how have you overcome them?
Katie: To start with, we had a real dilemma. Do we create our own association or do we become part of an existing one?
Vicki: We were very fortunate to come across abc anglais (through Helen McEwan who worked on the Cité Scolaire Internationale pantomime with us.) They took us under their wing.
After that, our main challenge was sorting out a lot of things all at the same time: reading umpteen scripts to find a story, organizing and advertizing the auditions…
Katie: And making sure that all this gets done behind the scenes without a hitch. That in itself is quite a challenge!
Hélène: I, personally, was happy to have help with all that work that no one ever imagines exits. How to overcome the constant challenges? With ‘your head in the stars and your feet on the ground’ (i.e. persistence, patience, with zest, and more persistence, more patience, etc.)
GL: What kind of people are you looking for and how can they audition?
Katie: Anyone of any nationality between 11 and 15 with a good knowledge of English and an excess of enthusiasm.
Hélène: You can be French, British, American, or whatever; but you must know that the whole activity is going to be run entirely in English.
Vicki: In other words, you can come from Mars …
Hélène: Or Venus …
Vicki: As long as you can get along in English and are prepared to improve through taking part.
Hélène: If you wish to join us for this thrilling adventure, go to www.abcanglais.org, section ‘collège’. All the information you need is there!
GL: Tell us a bit about your theatrical backgrounds
Hélène: I started doing theater at university, in the US. Then I was asked to keep going with the county community theater. I thoroughly enjoyed working eight months solid on the ‘Man of La Mancha’ musical. I was there six days a week and I can’t think of any moment not being sparkling! Then these past few years, I was general director of the C.S.I. panto where every single cast has been my favorite!
‘Out of hours’, I’m a scriptwriter and have worked on long features such as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, or Pearl Harbor; and if you’re dying for more names, you can go to my LinkedIn profile.
Vicki: I was involved in acting in a semi-professional theatre in England. I did drama all through school, acting and directing as house and drama captain. I acted during my university days too and put on a couple of plays in the English Department at U.3 in Grenoble. Finally, I was part of the panto direction team at the C.S.I. for two years.
Katie: I’ve done theatre with small children in Ireland. Here in Grenoble, I’ve worked on the C.S.I. panto for two years.
GL: What is the potential of Grenoble in particular for this type of theatre group in terms of audiences and participants?
Hélène, Vicki, and Katie: (with one voice) Massive!
GL: Thanks ladies. Watch this space for updates and news about Wing It Productions.