I am raising funds to pay for my tuition fees at L'Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq- a world-renowned theatre school in Paris.
About the project
My name is Pauline Miller and I am looking to raise money that will go towards paying my tuition fees at L'Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq. The Lecoq school which is located at 57 rue de Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th Arrondissement of Paris is internationally renowned. Each year the school takes ninety students onto its two-year professional course, only thirty of which will be invited into the second year. My peers at the school will have come from over 30 different countries and we will all be taught in French. Sacrebleu!
Being given a place at Lecoq is an incredible opportunity and receiving the school's acceptance of my application can only be likened to Charlie Bucket finding Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket-I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! So I did both and even though it's been several months since I received the confirmation letter, I still can't quite believe I got in. However, the comparisons between myself and Charlie end there. My golden ticket comes with a heftier price tag than his, at least in a monetary sense (I doubt I'll have to go through the trauma of watching my peers being sucked up pipes or swelling into giant blueberries, well, not in a literal sense anyway), and although I am willing to do everything in my abilities to get to Lecoq and stay there I know I can't do it on my own.
I came to performance and theatre a bit later than most. I was twenty-five when I first trod the boards with the South-West amateur society Tavistock Musical Theatre Company. I played Tzeitel in their production of Fiddler on the Roof. I sang, I acted (the part called for it) and I was undone by the experience. People who knew me were surprised. Because, for such a naturally quiet person, I was quite good! What many people didn't know, family members included, was that since around the age of six I had harboured ambitions of being either an actress or a story writer. But to my young mind this was just make-believe, an impossibility for someone who, when she started school had spent the first few breaktimes hiding under the girls' toilet portekabin. For me, acting was an ambition I could never articulate.
It took three more years of performing with T.M.T.C and a lot of encouragement from family and friends before I signed up for a BTEC Diploma in Performing Arts at Plymouth's City College. I was not convinced about my decision. I was going back into education at the grand age of twenty-eight. I would definitely be the oldest person on the course (by at least ten years). Where did I think this was going to take me? Let's face it, an education in the arts is not always recognized as a valuable or worthy pursuit (sadly even less now than in 2010 when I started my BTEC). But I knew I'd found something I was good at and not only good at, but something that I loved. And I'd spent a long time looking for both of those things. Sometimes you just have to step out, even if you're not sure where the road you're stepping onto is going to lead you.
Needless to say that I had an amazing time on the course. I had inspiring and supportive tutors who were passionate about performance and theatre, but more importantly their students. I was also incredibly blessed with my peers. The age gap proved irrelevant. We created theatre together, succeeded, failed and developed our craft with a shared love for what we were doing. And it was during this course that I first heard about Jacques Lecoq and the school he had founded in Paris in 1956. Elements of Lecoq's principles were explored throughout the course; a sense of creative enquiry, playfulness and the importance of shared collaboration in making theatre- in telling the story.
I've spent the last three years at the University of Exeter completing a BA in Drama. Again, I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by some very talented and creative minds both in respect of my tutors and peers. I've had the opportunity to create work, some of which was great, some of which was not so great, but I've learnt something at every point. And I'm not ready to stop learning (if that happens you might as well lie down and die), and yes I'm aware that you don't need to be in education to do that. The stuff that goes into the story, the thing I'm trying to articulate for my audience on stage is what we all experience as humans; love, loss, hope, fear and all the stuff in-between. Most of which happens, in my experience, outside the classroom and drama studio.
What I'm aiming to develop at the Lecoq school is my skill in telling the story. I want to add some more tools to the kitbag. Because over the last five years I've realised that one six-year old's seemingly impossible dream to be an actress or a story-writer are actually both achievable and not necessarily as two separate forms. Jacques Lecoq believed that the actor could not only be an interpreter of someone else's work i.e. the playwright's text, but should in fact be a creator of their own work. He believed the actor could also be the author, and that the best way to achieve this was through collaboration with others. This is what excites me about the school's training-Lecoq stated that his students had to 'invent their own theatre'. As such his training uses the actor's body as its starting point. I will be given the opportunity to explore various forms and dramatic styles including Mask work, gesture, bouffon and clown. With the skills I develop at the school I hope to make theatre that will excite, enthrall, question, challenge and delight audiences. I am also interested in finding new audiences for whom, like myself at one time, theatre is an inaccessible and unknown art form.
Over the past few years I've performed in and written and directed various pieces of theatre. In the summer of 2014 I was assistant director for a Young Company production at the Theatre Royal Plymouth working with a talented cast of 15-19 years old which proved to be a pure joy. I've loved all of these aspects of theatre-making, because ultimately for me they are about sharing a story with the audience. I recently wrote and directed a show called Cousin Jack for a local theatre festival. There was a small cast of five, myself included and it was honestly one of the hardest and most stressful experiences of my life. That it was so hard is irrelevant except for the fact that halfway through the rehearsal period it led to the realisation that, as difficult as the process was, I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. People's reaction to the piece only reaffirmed my continuing desire to pursue a career making theatre and telling stories.
'Ouch. "moist cheeks". #cousinjack@PMItheatre hit very very close to home in so many ways. Thank you.'
This comment posted on our twitter page was not from a family member or friend or anyone I could have picked out of the audience. That our piece touched someone or led to a moment of recognition highlights for me the power of stories, and that often underrated form of telling them called theatre.
This summer I had plans and God laughed. Instead of working and saving for this coming October, I found myself laid up after needing a small operation. I've been out of action for nearly six weeks waiting for the wound to heal. In order to divert my mind from continually worrying about how on earth I was going to pay the tuition fees and cost of living in Paris now I was unable to work, I did what I imagine many people would do, I read stories and I watched films. In the pages of books and in front of a screen I was able to escape, take my mind off my discomfort, my boredom, my frustration. I submerged myself in surreal tales, daring exploits, warring kingdoms and personal odysseys. These stories simultaneously took me out of myself and brought me back to myself. I found my own reflection mirrored back at me in the stories of others which, at first glance, I had no connection to. I saw myself in their trials, challenges and emotions. Here lies the power of stories to connect us. This is why I want to make theatre. My relief came in the form of books and films (unfortunately there were no passing theatre companies), but they are strands of the same thread of creativity that successive artists, of various forms, have added to since the beginning of, well, who knows! It's a thread that can unite societies and cultures in what is an often divided world, because it has the power to remind us of our shared humanity and divinity. We are, as humans, inherently creative. We can't help it. Even people who would not class themselves as such have creative impulses. Some people paint, some people write, others create weird sandwich combinations or are imaginative with their tax forms. I'm just choosing to making a life from it (and maybe a crust), like many mad people before me.
I can't do it on my own though. I don't just need collaborators creatively, I need them financially. I didn't manage to save as much as I'd hoped this summer and the school fees are expensive. If I don't have the remainding two-thirds of the school fees in January, I will be unable to continue. That amounts to £4000. I'm trying to raise £2000 of it. If you can help even a little it will be appreciated. I have not gotten to this point without huge and gracious amounts of support from many people. I don't imagine I can get any further without more. People tell stories in many different forms. Sometimes they come from a place we call the imagination, sometimes they are based on the realities of a person's life, maybe they recount the history of a people. Somehow it's all the same. Someone set it down in ink, in paint, to the bars of a musical phrase or even through their body and sent it out into the world. It may have been difficult. It may have cost them something. Perhaps they worked until the early hours of the morning, went hungry, received countless rejection letters, were given ridiculously small or large (at times as unhelpful) budgets, questioned their own abilities, had sleepless nights, were ridiculed, overlooked, underrated, had to move back in with their parents, couldn't make rent, lived in their overdraft and beyond it, had to ask to borrow money...again, worked two jobs sometimes three, got screwed over by corporations, had bailiffs at the door, or had trouble keeping a partner. I can't speak for every artist, but I know that the challenges I've met so far have not been enough to dissuade me from continuing to pursue a life which is grounded in acts of creativity. I believe we all benefit when we recognize the importance of our artists and the stories they have to tell. Can you imagine a world without them? I can't.
Thank you for staying with me,