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Building Community for Adults with Disabilities in Montpellier

Kelly Salance

For students of German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the themes explored by Montpellier’s La Bulle Bleue theater troupe will be readily familiar, ones that lead to an uncomfortable question: how can outsiders express themselves in the face of a society that cannot—or will not—accept them for who they are?

Fassbinder often employed non-professional actors to explore that question as well as to deconstruct standard cinema and theater tropes, and so it’s fitting that La Bulle Bleue’s theater group is comprised of 14 actors with developmental disabilities who fearlessly shed light on their inner lives and experiences.

“It is a question of allowing every citizen to have access to an artistic practice beyond his or her difficulties—the essential stake of allowing everyone to be able to develop artistic potential and to be able to express it,” says Stéphanie Teillais-Blandamour, La Bulle Bleue spokesperson. “It’s an artistic and political question. Artists with disabilities have significant artistic potential, and they must be accompanied to enable them to develop it and to express it. It’s a process of self-confidence and emancipation.”

That challenge—to help artists with disabilities to realize their artistic potential—is just part of La Bulle Bleue’s mission, which is to serve and empower adults with developmental disabilities in Montpellier’s community. Opened in February 2012 as a pilot program for the Culture Santé Handicap et Dépendance in the Occitanie region of southern France, La Bulle Bleue provides volunteers from a range of artistic disciplines—theater, food, and gardening—who instruct and guide its 46 clients.

While the theater group enters the final stage of its three-part Beware of Fassbinder! project, the staff of La Bulle Bleue’s catering and gardening services are exploring creativity in their own ways, from experimenting with various cuisines to creating an inviting environment surrounding the theater.

For the catering service, which Zendesk hires for internal events, that means using fresh, locally sourced ingredients prepared under the watchful eye of a local culinary professional. “Training is provided by the chefs, and there are also one-off trainings based on themes,” says Teillais-Blandamour. “The cooks are autonomous and do the preparation, but they need the support of the cook-educator.”

Those catering employees do more than cook and serve meals to local businesses; for example, from October 2017 through June 2018, they participated in workshops with members of France Alzheimer Hérault that were designed to stimulate fading memories.

La Bulle Bleue intentionally combines the catering service with its cultural projects, Teillais-Blandamour says. “The two aspects are combined in a common project of access to culture and time for exchange, sharing, and discovery around the senses,” she says. “We take action to create shared artistic or leisure time. ” This past June in partnership with FAF-LF, they hosted 'dinner in the dark' (repas dans le noir), where supper guest were blindfolded to simulate being visually imparted and having to rely on your other senses. 

The secret to La Bulle Bleue's success is combining innovative with inclusivity - always looking to see how to push the boundaries of convention and bring a traditionally marginalized group to the center stage (as well as kitchen and garden).  

Interesting in attending a theater performance or using La Bulle Bleue’s catering services?Head over to their website to learn more!