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Tangible and Intangible Infrastructure Is the Strength
Tangible and Intangible Infrastructure Is the Strength
Interviewer : Hyunjoo CHANG _ Culture Designer 2012.01.03 Europe > France

Tangible and Intangible Infrastructure Is the Strength
[Who&Work] Philippe Bachman _ Artistic Director of La Cométe


I met Artistic Director Philippe Bachman who transformed the La Cométe, 'national scene' in a small city of Châlons-en Champagne of France with only 50,000 in population into a international theater in a short period of time. With much interest in Asian works, he participated in the Performing Arts Market in Seoul 2011 (PAMS). There, I was able to meet him and listen to the programming of La Cométe Theater and his thoughts on Asian artworks.

Philippe Bachman

Q: It's nice to meet you. I heard that you are serving as the artistic director and the director of the La Cométe Theater, could you first tell me about the theater?

A: La Cométe is located in a city called Châlons-en-Champagne which is in the Champagne region 170km east of Paris and also famous for its champagne. Isn't it impressive that a small city with only 50,000 people have a theater with the 'national scene' title? There are 70 national scenes across France and in order to get the national scene title, three conditions must be met. First, theater must be capable of producing- or co-producing a performance. Second, the theater must have a stage and expertise to put on all kinds of genres, and lastly, it must contribute to the revitalization of the local culture.

La Cométe was designated as a 'national scene' in 1995. It is equipped with a large 616 seat theater, a small 150 seat theater also used as a cinema, and it is also equipped with an amphitheater with 1100 seat capacity. And usually, there are 100 performances and 600 movie screenings per season. Every year 6~8 performances are co-produced with 2~3 works being produced, and 2~3 works make world premieres. I think it's safe to say La Cométe owes its growth to good tangible and intangible infrastructure.

Overcoming Regional Limitations

Q: After you were appointed as the director of the theater, there was a remarkable increase in the number of audiences. Do you have any special criteria in theater operation or selection of works? Or, has your artistic perspective as a musician have an effect on the programming?

A: When I first came as the director, La Cométe's annual average audience was about 11,000 people. This number might be appropriate when viewed in proportion to the population of the city, but this number was still quite low viewed from a theater operator. So, I actively introduced the membership system where the audiences received more benefits the more they saw the performances. I also connected the membership system with the theaters of surrounding cities in order to overcome regional limitations, and now over 40% of the members see around 10 performances per year on the average. Currently, over 45,000 audiences see our performances, making it a 3 fold increase in the last 5 years. The current yearly budget of the theater is 3.8 million euros, and this too is about 80% increase within 5 years.

Certainly, the selection method of performances played a big role here. I think of diverse tastes of the audiences when selecting a work. In other words, I put myself in the shoes of the audience prior to selecting works and try not to pick and choose according to my personal tastes. In addition, because our theater is networked with 16 other theaters in Europe, we are able to obtain much more diversity in the programming, and we are giving and receiving a lot of help in programming works through such interrelationships.

La Cométe

Q: When looking at your program this year, it is filled with variety of genres such as jazz, dance, comedy, theatre, and classical music. Have these works been selected from the perspective of the audiences?

A: I think the audiences are able to have a continuous interest in the program of the theater by having them pick and choose the works according to their taste just like picking variety of items at a shopping mall. That is, it's about presenting diversity through the discovery of new performances and culture, balanced distribution of genres, combination of different genres, etc., but at the same time, maintaining a balance among the performances and creating programmes that is solely open to the selection of the audiences.

Together, with the Art of the World

Q: You have introduced the "assoiciate artiste" system. How is it being operated and what are some of its benefits?

A: Currently, there are 3 assoiciate artistes of La Cométe. There is Uri Caine, a composer and pianist from U.S.; Patrice Thibaud, a composer from France; and Ubus Théâtre, a modern traveling theater from Canada. They stay in residence for a set period of 2 years, and participate in creative activities and performances. Usually, they present about 3 performances per year, and present over 6 performance works within 2 seasons. In addition, they participate and lead lectures and seminars for students and local artists, and educational programs for the general public as well. These events create a more intimate relationship with people who love arts and culture, and they provide great benefits to theater operations because it helps to maintain continuous interest from the local residents.

Q: I heard that you have a lot of interest in Asian artists and artworks. How were the works that you've encountered through this visit to Korea?

A: La Cométe has been consistently introducing Asian works through 'To the east of the new' project in connection with regional theaters. I saw several Korean works introduced through PAMS, and noticed there are many interesting works. In particular, I was very impressed with the performances of group music such as GongMyoung and The Near East Quartet. I intend to see a lot more performances during my stay here, and continue to watch with interest in the future. Although nonverbal performances from Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand are presented to the audience in this 2011~2012 season, I plan to introduce works from Korea, Japan, and China next season around.
Jasmin Vardimon Company _ 7734
Q: Other than the director of La Cométe, you are serving as the president of The 360 ​​˚ Networks which is an international network of round artistic venues. What kind of activities is this organization involved in?

A: There was a historic circus school in Châlons-en Champagne, originally established in 1899. It was the best educational institution for circus in France, and with the complete remodeling early this year, it became an undisputed capital for circus education in Europe. The amphitheater was traditionally designed for performing circuses. Today, the circus became a 'culture' not just a 'show', and even other genres are introducing experimental performances that are multi-directional, utilizing the characteristics of the circular space of the theater in order to communicate with the audience from a variety of angles.

The international network of round artistic venues is also researching and sharing results of amphitheaters' artistic side and technical side according to presentation methods in addition to its architectural aspects. To this end, seminars and lectures are held every 3~4 months, and a yearbook is issued every year. Currently, it is participated by 10 European countries and Canada, and La Cométe is also programming performances in connection with the association.

As he puts on a big smile and promises to treat me to special champagne when I visit La Cométe during the 2012 festivals, he says he is able to get advantage in working as a director of a theater because he is an artist. He is creating a pathway so that he can get a deeper understanding of the performers and the works, and also communicate the contemplations and various visions of the artists with the audiences. Through these two roles, he believes he himself is constantly evolving.

Philippe Bachman

Words that always come up when speaking of Philippe Bachman are broad mindedness and diversity. He learned harmonics, history of music, and jazz on the side as he was majoring in piano at a CNSM de Paris, and he had also received a degree in history from Université de la Sorbonne. Then, he was in charge of music of a theatrical performances for a while, and went abroad to U.S. after receiving Villa Medici and Fulbright scholarships. Then, he was in charge of building a system for popularizing art under the Ministry of Arts when he came back to France. Since being the director of La Cométe in 2004, he has been making major contributions in revitalizing the local culture through planning and operations that actively reach out to the public. He is actively engaged in cultural activities throughout as he is also the president of The 360​​˚ network of international network of round artistic venues, and is operating the Culture&Cooperation that specializes in repairing musical instruments in support of musicians. He is also lecturing at a music academy, Université de la Sorbonne, and Université Charles-de-gaulle Lille.

Links

| Go to La Cométe Go  
| Jasmin Vardimon Company Go  

Hyunjoo CHANG _ Culture Designer

Hyunjoo CHANG, after receiving masters degree in French Language and Literature at Seoul National University, she received DEA and Ph.D. (in theater) at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. Since she started work in performing arts in 2004, she produced numerous plays and musicals. After working as the manager of International Development Dept. at Korea Arts Management Service, she served as the director of Communications Baagunee at a performance planning/producing company. She is currently lecturing subjects related to arts management, performing arts, cultural contents planning and marketing at a university, and she is also working as a culture designer.

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http://eng.theapro.kr

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