Monday 5 December 2022

Live performances to be rethought after quarantine

Concerts on balconies, online shows, special playlists… all these good ideas have appeared during the quarantine. But to look forward to the future with lasting solutions is another story. Even though pedestrians can now roam freely, the cultural world still feels locked up by the protective measures, considered incompatible with its outreach aspect.

“Now, we’re gonna need entertainment workers and artists everywhere in France. I need people who know how to do things, how to innovate for the next generations.” Emmanuel Macron has declared in his much anticipated speech on culture’s future. “Let’s use this period to revolutionize the accessibility of culture and art.” The French President invites artists of all cultural areas to rethink their arts by taking into account the new restrictions imposed by the government. But how can these professions coincide with social distancing?

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Just like many other places, the Parisian concert venue “Petit Bain”, located on a boat, has been considerably impacted by this two-months shutdown. But Laurent Décès, its Chief Operating Officer, doesn’t intend to let down the 70 000 regulars. Thanks to the City of Paris, he will carry on with the action initiated during the quarantine: “we will keep organizing concerts at the artists’ windows by putting in place a broadcasting system. The City of Paris knows we have the resources to think of an adapted program.”

Pop, Jazz, Electro… the neighbors will be pleasantly surprised by the eclectic program proposed by Petit Bain.  “There were many initiatives with free access during the quarantine. It’s a good thing, but this model won’t be working in the medium-term. We now can give a 150€ fee to the performing artists”, ads the Chief Operating Officer.

Petit Bain hosts 70 000 spectators each year.

These won’t be the only solutions. Laurent Décès quotes Sénèque as a new post-quarantine motto: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” He gives a detailed description of this new mode of operation: “We’ve been thinking about hosting a radio inside our establishment to give a voice to artists and technicians and explain how we can make things work. We also think about performing for persons with reduced mobility. Then, we will be able to undertake general renovations on the venue or to host a creative residency: we have to capitalize for 2021.” He then concludes: “But of course, this economic model is not ideal. We will probably need the government’s support, to find sponsors, donations and to establish a radio subscription.”

Maintaining the artistic gesture

is another story for live entertainment. “Collectif 12”, a troupe of performers located in a wasteland in Mantes-la-Jolie, is already working hard to reinvent itself. Usually, the place hosts dancers, actors and dozens of creations coming from other companies and leads social actions in the school environment.

The Collectif 12 is a place of multi-disciplinary artistic creation located in Mantes-la-Jolie.

Photo by Hélène Harder

The wasteland is already reopening as a working space. Exceptionally, the Collectif 12 won’t close this summer. “We want to reinstate the artists residencies by the month of June. They need to work. We can also reopen the stage for school groups if high-schoolers need to come here”, plans Laurent Vergnaud, co-director of the Collectif 12, lighting designer and stage director.

Theater artists are not pessimistic. “It’s also an occasion to question ourselves. We set up a commission to think of possible adaptations that could be performed on the public space for example. We also think about actions with a small audience. For instance, imagine a show with two artists for two spectators. But of course, it requires money”, he admits.

To him, there is a real risk that the public will re-focus on big institutions like the “Comédie-Française” as long as the small venues will struggle getting back on their feet after the two-months shutdown. “Idealistically, the public should disseminate on the territory. We should seize this opportunity to open mini-theaters, barns, anything we want to recreate a close bond with the territories. The stage’s inventiveness will always go on, but we need to maintain the artistic gesture”. He ads: “if practical means ensue Emmanuel Macron’s intentions, we will be able to lead more social actions. Let’s do this!”

From musician to composer

To Jean Thevenin, alias Jaune, DJ and musician, the quarantine has been a way to make his biggest wish come true. “I have played every evening on my balcony during the quarantine. It was kind of my dream,” he says enthusiastically. “I felt like my neighborhood had turned into Buenos Aires, people interacted during my concerts with pans, shakers, the bus honking in rhythm with the music…”

Jean Thevenin (aka Jaune) takes advantage of this new period to become a composer.

Photo by Romain Corvez

He also has been thinking about the future, that won’t possibly look like daily South American concerts. “I make musics for podcasts and collaborations with other artists. I think I’ll be composing more and maybe giving private concerts for about ten people.”

Jean Thevenin will mostly spend 2021 in the studios. “I had started to compose before, but I am speeding my reconversion up. I’d like to release a record along with a movie just like Anima by Paul Thomas Anderson”, he confesses. 

Another solution, as the French President said, could be to focus on education. “If musicians can’t work, I think I would enjoy taking part in workshops financed by the government. For example opening my studio to teenagers. I like the fact that they ask questions we’d never have thought about, it’s stimulating.”

Translated by Maëlla Tasset

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