The only Francophone theater in the San Francisco Bay Area has launched several weeks of renovation in order to host dance shows, movies screenings, and more actors than ever before. The new space is set to reopen in February.
This success story will soon be celebrating its tenth anniversary. A certain Frédéric Patto first arrived at the Lycée Français de San Francisco to teach math, physics, and chemistry in 2006. Originally from Montpellier, the teacher was also an actor in an amateur theater troupe, and was won over by the campus auditorium, located south of Golden Gate Park. “When I first entered the 330-seat hall, I told myself that there was really something to be done,” he says. He went on to found the first acting class for adults and put on Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano with several other teachers.
The following year saw the classes transform into an acting troupe called La D-Boussole, and Frédéric Patto offered students the chance to take acting classes as part of their high school diploma. “We had eight students the first year, and now there are 50 spread across three groups,” says the multi-talented thespian, who continues to teach at the school while also working as the troupe’s art director. Some of the people who took their first theatrical steps on the boards of the Lycée Français theater have gone on to become actors.
A Prestigious Program
Over the years, Frédéric Patto has developed a professional program for the theater, and Thierry Lhermitte, Patrick Timsit, and Clémentine Célarié performed there. The 2014 San Francisco French Theater Festival also offered the space greater visibility, while facilitating the organization of new shows.
During the school year, a different show is put on every month from September through May. “We perform works by contemporary, Francophone playwrights and I try to import plays that have won Molière awards [presented to the year’s best artists and theater productions in France] and the biggest hits of 2016 and 2017,” says Frédéric Patto. This year will see Charlotte Turckheim presenting Une journée chez ma mère on February 1 and 2. Andréa Bescond, who won a Molière in 2016, will by performing her show, Les Chatouilles on April 6, and writer and philosopher Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt will be personally acting in Mister Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran on May 5.
The auditorium originally dates back to 1979, and is being restored to its former glory before starting the 2018 season. The work will cost around 500,000 dollars, financed by the students’ parents and partners such as the l’Agence pour l’Enseignement Français à l’Etranger, the Bank of West-BNP Paribas, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. The revamp will also see the addition of a booth for sound and light engineers, new lighting equipment, and a vast screen with a projector. After the renovation in February, the Bay Area’s only Francophone theater will also be able to host dance shows and movie screenings.