Article by: Michele Malek

My French course inadvertently gave birth to a theatrical adventure. An excerpt from a text, a few verses, an image, an exercise in style or even a few words from the students… Every occasion became a reason to stop the course and push the furniture around to make way for a stage.

Children and teens applied themselves so well to impromptu performances that I decided my life-long passion for the stage must be contagious.

The birth of the Atelier Très-Tôt-Théâtre has become, in a way, the spontaneous and natural extension of my French courses.

I started renting my halls in 1998, only to give a single course at the Monot Theatre. For years, I waltzed in between French courses in the morning and theatre in the evening.
The children were happy, passionate and excited. Actors and actresses became numerous. Children were growing up, evolving and astounding all around… I loved them. They appreciated it and eventually showered me with love tenfold.

I needed more room, more halls… so I moved to the IESAV-USJ on the Damascus
Road. However, the Jesuits, despite their warm hospitality, ran out of “room” for my nine courses.

Encouraged by all the parents of these apprentice actors and actresses, in 2009 the Atelier Très-Tôt-Théâtre finally established itself within its walls at Victor Hugo street, parallel to Monot street, Achrafieh.

More than five hundred thespians passed on stage during the past 16 years of the Atelier. I shared unique moments of grace and joy with each and every one of them.
We also host a dance workshop, essential to the maintaining of scenic presence, as well as a summer stage (more coveted by the year) that offers young trainees a concentrated artistic near-complete training (more than nine different disciplines).

Meanwhile, the Atelier has put on 16 shows in every other genre: vaudeville, drama, plays, a pot-pourri of diverse scenarios. The actors and actresses have performed texts by Feydeau, Guitry, Pagnol, Tchekov, Allegre, Roald Dahl, Gripari, Camoletti, Cooney and many more… all in front of enthralled live audiences.

This is not to mention the 10 Cafe- theatre plays in June, performed at the closure of every training year. It is, however, after four or five performances, of these Cafe-theatre, that the actors and actresses grow into a certain theatrical maturity, allowing them to perform their first production, which I call the real “show.”

Projects? I do have plenty in my mind and heart, ideas that will keep this magnificent human adventure alive.
Only if the country’s stability does not degrade much further … or else it would be “adieu veau, vache, cochon, couvée.”

As long as I can keep the flame shining in the eyes of the children; as long as I can see them run, play, grow and gain confidence; as long as I can help them learn how to listen to each other, to share, to know themselves and to accept themselves as they are; as long as they are enjoying the length of their training; as long as I can see them fly into other horizons while keeping that enchanted look for the theatre and … as long as I see these children growing up into fine adults while still holding the torch high, engaging in theatre or cinema as professionals, and in turn transmitting this passion for the play…I will courageously keep climbing the steps to the Atelier Très-Tôt-Théâtre, and giving ‘all my soul for creation,” as wonderfully said by Victor Hugo.