Library offers acting, learning at 'Le Café Fou'
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 14, 2004
Kirsten Sorenson

At their young ages, 7-year-old Jessica Lasman, 10-year-old Chaz Malcolm and 11-year-old Rebecca Udall are still mastering the basics of English.

But these three East Valley students, along with about a dozen more, have been cast in a comedic play Thursday at the Southeast Regional Library. What's more, the play is not performed in English, but in French.

The performance, Le Café Fou (The Crazy Cafe), is the brainchild of Lynne Johnson, who works in yuth services at the library. This is the third time Johnson has written, cast, rehearsed and directed a French play performed at Southeast Regional, 775 N. Greenfield Road.

She speaks fluent French and believes children benefit from exposure to another language.

"Kids mostly get exposure to Spanish in school," Johnson said. "They don't get French exposure until they get to high school."

The younger a student is when they try to learn a foreign language, the easier it can be, according to Johnson.

She recorded on cassette tapes the lines each young actor was to speak in French and has been working with them on accents and emphasis.

The actors in the French drama troupe have equal parts in Le Café Fou.

Although the play is billed as a French drama, it actually has a humorous bent, with the actors performing exaggerated expressions and pausing for audience reaction.

Most of the students can speak a little Spanish, but none has ever been exposed to French.

"It's sometimes hard to understand what you are saying," said Lasman, a home-schooled student who plays the waitress, Camille.

Malcolm, a student at Oak Tree Elementary in Gilbert, has French ancestors.

"I wanted to learn French because I'm part French," he said.

Malcolm plays Jacques, a patron of the cafe.

Udall, who attends Entz Elementary in Mesa, has learned a little bit of Spanish and also German. She plays Chloe, another cafe patron.

It's doubly difficult for the young students, who not only must speak their parts in French, but also must act their parts. This is the first acting job for most of them.

Johnson spent a recent rehearsal teaching the actors blocking - where they must stand when and to never turn their backs on the audiences - and even worked with one student, who plays a waiter, on how to take believable pratfalls.

The play is 7 p.m. Thursday at the library's assembly room.

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