Interview with François Lis

Today I am talking about acting, creating a company, theatre and education with actor

François Lis

[©2013 F. Lis]


Tell us about your training and your profession:

I have always wanted to act, ever since I performed in a play in high school. After my A levels I auditioned for a state drama school. I did not get in.

As I needed to work, I did every possible odd jobs that were on offer, still hoping to be able to become an actor. One day I met an old friend from high school. He was studying at the Michel Grandval drama school. I followed him and trained there for two years.

After graduating I did a show with Philippe Benard in a tiny theatre in Paris. Over some years, we put up with Philippe various plays. It did not pay the rent but was enabling us to show our talents. We did that for about four years.

Then I joined the “Théâtre de la Mainate” and from then on I was able to live as an actor. However, I was still doing every possible job that came my way: voice overs, voices for toys, enterprises videos.

Then I met Philippe Leroy, who had this idea to go and play in the high-schools. We realised nobody was coming to get us and so we needed to create our own work. We created the company “Anima”. We did an adaption of “Jacque le Fataliste”. We had no money. So we decided to work on bare minimum. We did 50 shows a year. Then Philippe pulled out.

Besides my company, I worked for Jean-Philippe Daguerre in “les mille et une nuits”

It was there that I met Bruno Biezunsky. Together we did an adaptation of ‘Ruy Blas”. It was under his company that we worked.

Then we fell out and I found myself without a structure to put up the shows that were scheduled.

That is when I decided I just had to create my own company, and most important that I was capable of doing it. It was called “compagnie Ornithorynque” because it is a silly name, and the animal is quite weird, just like me.

Then as a director, I went to look for actors to perform in the play I wanted to put up. I met a lot of actors from the drama school 7ème acte. I have worked with many of them, as they encompass what is really needed in theatre in education. Youth, energy and a strong training.

Beside the high school performances, we also perform our plays in various theatres in Paris. Right now, we have over ten plays on offer to high-schools around France, and a triple bill at the Théâtre de l’Essaïon.


Why did you create your own company?

To be finally independent and do what I wanted, without having to beg for permission. There is of course a lot of paper work but I manage. I love all the show I offer.


What are the main difficulties in Theatre in education?

You have to understand, that the kids that come and see us are not happy to do so. They are forced, they are trapped at school, and so basically everything that they are doing at school is going to be boring and stupid. So the first thing we fight against is a negative a priori.

Because we want to have a good time, we need the audience. We need to surprise them, give them some kind of happy feeling. If you can make them laugh, you create a capital of sympathy. You have to stimulate their energy. And never let them get bored.

For classical adaptations we keep the essence of the text. We need to tell a story, the beauty of the text twill touch the audience later. I want kids to travel emotionally because that is what drama is all about. And I believe in order to do that you have to start with laughter.

What is great about that type of audience is that they don’t restrain their enthusiasm.


You have a company but you don’t direct, why?

I do direct some plays. It is not what I prefer. I prefer acting, being with the audience. I directed “Les Bonnes” by Jean Genet, but at the same time, I play the director and Madame.


What is it you like most about acting?

I love to be able to change. I don’t like doing the same things. That’s why I love creating a show with lots of characters and very few actors, so that one actor has to perform many characters. This way I never get bored.

I love the plurality of emotions. I love never being stuck in a way of doing. And most of all I love being able to earn my living with my passion.

What I am interestedin  is what is created in the audience by my acting.

Control is a fake believe. I try things and see if it makes the audience happy. I can never do things twice and expect the same reaction twice. Sometimes it is painful to feel the audience not happy when you are putting a lot of effort into your work.

What I want is to leave a good memory.

The audience’s reaction gives me pleasure.


Do you think an actor can play anything?

Yes he can play anything as long as the audience accepts it. The audience is everything to me.


thank you François for this great and truthful interview.




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