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Interview to Juli Allard-Schaefer from Les Messieurs Utopiques

Article by Pôle Emploi.

In Lyon, Les Messieurs Utopiques stand out for their initiatives in the world of theater and in favor of performing arts. A figure emerges, Juli Allard-Schaefer, at the origin of this association, in charge of production, director, she works for the performing arts.

Can you tell me about your background?

I started on stage when I was 6 y.o. as an actress, because I talked a lot… And that’s where I found a place that allowed me to express myself. Following this, after a scientific baccalaureate, I decided to continue my studies in Performing Arts. I arrived in Lyon, I treaded on the boards as an actress, I then moved towards staging and directing (Le Lavoir Public in 2012). Then came a big professional questioning, I left everything in 2014 to travel around the world. At that moment, I reflect on the meaning of life. When I get home, I learnt sophrology. Then my goal is to give meaning to my action, which is what Les Messieurs Utopiques is born from.

What are Les Messieurs Utopiques?

The desire of Les Messieurs Utopiques is to open the mind and the senses. This project is a common and benevolent adventure. It is dedicated to human-to-human exchange, meeting people and consolidating and deepening knowledge.

The working method of Les Messieurs Utopiques is to meet each one in his or her singularity, and to experience training, transmission and exchanges, in order to highlight the conscious and unconscious work done on bodies and beings across different cultures and origins.

We discuss the basics of the actor. discover or rediscover what is specific to each and common to all. Rediscover its essence, and the simplicity of Being. We want to open a curiosity in everyone towards oneself, towards their neighbor, towards meeting, towards difference, rocked by the traditions and the renewals that each one brings to the world.

Now based in Rhône-Alpes, Les Messieurs Utopiques offer training courses for actors, performing artists and students.

Can you tell me about your trainings and more particularly the actor trainings? How did this initiative come to you?

Initially, this emerged of an observation. For many companies, the training times they previously had; whether it be exchanges and time between actors, were more and more replaced by productive playing time. Thus, a good number of artists who came together no longer had places or moments to meet each other for these exchange of practices. I decided to catch it off-guard. When I was a student, we had these opportunities to meet in some rooms to practice and this is something that professionals were sorely lacking. By analyzing the field, seeing the needs that existed including the difficulties of finding a common place, the difficulty of finding training slots and open to all and the exhaustion of doing this small-scale work that it created in artists who were trying to put these times in place

How many of you were at the start to make this observation?

I wrote a post on a Facebook group about this training idea, and I managed to get 38 people together for a first meeting. We talked for 4 hours about what training was for each of us. From there, the actor trainings was born and benefits all the artists of Lyon and surroundings (actors, dancers, circus artists, musicians, performers and others).

It was a personal urge that was shared by other people and then everyone who came after.

How did you do it?

We got a real boost from the Cultural department of Lyon to lend us premises. In the beginning, we really wanted to work with theaters in Lyon, but nobody believed in it. We had to find a place that met the needs and the municipal halls turned out to be great places!

During pandemic periods, our partnerships have enabled us to move on other structures: La Ruche, Le Plongeoir and Les Cmochards Célestes have lent us their rehearsal set in particular.

For you, is there a link between developing personal skills and acting?

Sure! We also have set up workshops for amateurs. It is about using theater to help reintegrating people into their personal lives. These interventions are made to an adult audience with the Théâtre de la Mouche and we do that with partners. The idea is to use sophrology and so-called “body and voice” theater with the idea of ​​personal development, working on self-confidence, developing communication skills, being able to focus on oneself.

What did you learn from theater?

The theater allowed me to channel my energy into myself, if it hadn’t been for the theater I would have been a nuclear bomb and I would have exploded in space. It is a medium to express things to the world and to be heard, to convey a message, to make viewers feel emotions, etc. The theater taught me to create a space in which I can bring together all these values. And also have fun wearing fancy dress and looking like weird guys (laughs)

What is for you the most important skill to develop?

What is important to develop is self-knowledge and the ability to relate to the present. For me, the link between everything is awareness of oneself and one’s place in the world. In the trainings, we work with artists on consciousness and presence on stage. In organization management, we work on awareness of our project, what we are doing, where we are, why we are doing it. If we don’t know where we are, we’re not going anywhere, it’s no use. For amateur workshops, the goal is to become aware of your body, of your place in space, to become aware of how you are perceived by others in order to better perceive yourself and thus be able to develop. I am fighting for empowerment and self-development today.

More information: http://www.messieurs-utopiques.com/

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