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Life is a Cabaret

March 2011

By Stephanie Wells, Paris

“Why would you applaud for a movie?” my friend asks me, “The actors can’t hear you!” The rhetorical question lobbed last weekend while deciding how to spend a Saturday in Paris sums up the Parisian regard on entertainment. Parisians thirstily lap up live performances of theatre, music, art, comedy and any mutation thereof. On a given day in the City of Lights, one is guaranteed top quality entertainment in front of sold-out crowds.

The oft-publicly-sponsored events are trumpeted along the metro corridors and revolving billboards with massive, beautifully designed posters. Take as an example the new temple for the digital arts, Gaîté Lyrique, opening this weekend near the Les Halles area.

I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the Gaîté Lyrique would be. Only that I saw the graphic posters absolutely everywhere, screaming that it was a BFD – a big friggin’ deal. Even with my memory as substantial as tinsel, the phrase “Gaîté Lyrique” was ironed onto my cerebral lobes and led me to Google it.

The Gaîté Lyrique example is not unique as diversions go. From the Folies Bergère dancers to musical revues by Josephine Baker and the cancan, live entertainment experienced in the public arena has always been wildly popular in Paris. Summertime brings the annual “music day” or Fête de la Musique, the Communist Party’s Fête de l’Humanité concert, Solidays promoting AIDS awareness, and the Paris Plage riverside beach party.

Events and expos try to out-do each other with the most eye-catching poster campaigns. These range from colorful and playful to Euro-minimalist. Promotion in Paris generally happens via the metro platforms and city streets as opposed to online, with little sign of changing any time soon as the French are notoriously change-resistant. However this time it works in their favor. Their energetic affichage efforts are essential to the personality of the city. Parisians enjoy the pause, or time-out, of entertainment and divertissment on lazy weekends. I’m finding that slowly, but quite unavoidably, the Parisian enthusiasm for shared experience is converting me as a devotee.

Despite all of these live entertainment options, Parisian adolescents and young-at-heart adults still frequently pull out the trusty Nintendo Wii for after-dinner entertainment. Video games still count among popular at-home activities, however they are less popular than in the US. Interestingly, I have not heard of card-playing, poker or blackjack, as a pastime in France.

Entertainment & Gaming

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