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Reality specs opens Paris theatre to non-French speakers

Non-French speakers can soon appreciate the French arts scene even more with the introduction of "augmented reality" glasses that project English translations of French musicals into the air - all for your eyes only.

Reality specs opens Paris theatre to non-French speakers
The French ministers of culture and economy, Fleur Pellerin (L) and Emmanuel Macron (R) try out the glasses. Photo: Fabrice Sabre
ParisThe future is right in front of your eyes – at least if you head to the Paris theatre Le Comedia this month. 
 
The team at Theatre in Paris has announced that it is rolling out special glasses for non-French speakers that send perfectly synchronized translations into the air by the stage. 
 
It sounds complicated, says Carl de Poncins, the co-founder company Theatre in Paris – but it's not really. 
 
“It's very similar to Google glasses, except the screen is larger and the words are positioned closer to where you're looking,” he told The Local.
 
“It's a lot less effort from a user standpoint – you see the words on a virtual and transparent screen.”
 
The futuristic concept – which was developed by the team at Theatre in Paris and IT company ATOS – will be trialed between December 5th and January 3rd for the show “Mistinguett, Queen of the Cabaret”.
 

See Mistinguett, Queen of the Cabaret – with English text. Photo: AFP
 
If translated French theatre sounds familiar to you, perhaps you've already heard of the previous work by Theatre in Paris – which earlier this year introduced surtitles (yes, surtitles – they're on top of the stage, not below) at several shows. 
 
De Poncin told The Local at the time that he had noticed that tourists were bored during the evenings in Paris.
 
“They've already walked around all day, checked out the Louvre, visited Versailles, climbed the Eiffel Tower… and then what do they do at night? Cabaret? Frankly, that's a pity.”
 
He said on Friday that he is working at rolling out the concept, adding that theatre directors are “just getting started” when it comes to the possibilities of combining shows with augmented reality.
 
“We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to breaking down the language barriers in theatre,” he said. 
 
 

 
A closer look at the new glasses. Photo: Optinvent

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PARIS

Top Paris theatre reopens as Covid occupy movement ends

French actors, stage technicians and other members of the performing arts ended a more-than-two-month occupation of the famous Odéon theatre in Paris on Sunday, allowing the show to go on after this week's easing of Covid-19 curbs.

Top Paris theatre reopens as Covid occupy movement ends
A picture taken on January 26, 2011 in Paris shows the facade of the Odéon theatre. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

The protesters took down the banners they had slung across the facade of the venue in the Left Bank as they left at dawn, leaving just one inscribed “See you soon”.

“We’re reopening!,” theatre director Stéphane Braunschweig exclaimed on the venue’s website, adding that it was “a relief and a great joy to be able to finally celebrate the reunion of the artists with the public.”

The Odéon, one of France’s six national theatres, was one of around 100 venues that were occupied in recent weeks by people working in arts and entertainment.

The protesters are demanding that the government extend a special Covid relief programme for “intermittents” — performers, musicians, technicians and other people who live from contract to contract in arts and entertainment.

READ ALSO: Protesters occupy French theatres to demand an end to closure of cultural spaces

With theatres shut since October due to the pandemic, the occupations had gone largely unnoticed by the general public until this week when cultural venues were finally cleared to reopen.

The Odéon, which was inaugurated by Marie-Antoinette in 1782, had planned to mark the reopening in style, by staging Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece “The Glass Menagerie”, with cinema star Isabelle Huppert as a former southern belle mourning the comforts of her youth.

But the protests scuppered the first five performances, with management saying the venue was blocked — a claim the protesters denied.

“What we wanted was for it (the performance) to go ahead, along with an occupation allowing us to speak out and hang our banners. We don’t want to stop the show,” Denis Gravouil, head of the performing arts chapter of the militant CGT union, said on Sunday.

Two other major theatres — the Colline theatre in eastern Paris and the National Theatre of Strasbourg — have also been affected by the protests.
 
France has one of the world’s most generous support systems for self-employed people in the arts and media, providing unemployment benefit to those who can prove they have worked at least 507 hours over the past 12 months.

But with venues closed for nearly seven months, and strict capacity limits imposed on those that reopened this week, the “intermittents” complained they could not make up their hours.

The government had already extended a year-long deadline for them to return to work by four months.

The “intermittents” are pushing for a year-long extension instead.

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