Pascal Monteville through the decades

Nota Bene

As Pascal Montéville leaves SYA France after more than 35 years of remarkable service to his students, what better way to capture his many accomplishments and the admiration he garnered from those he taught than to reproduce here two homages. The first, with thanks to classmates Elizabeth Melchor FR’99 and Wilburn Bonnell FR’99 for their thoughtful tribute, is the dedication of the Class of SYA France 1999 yearbook. The second is an article written for the winter 2000 SYA newsletter by Michele (Mike) Bird, wife of former Resident Director Geoff Bird, and who was the SYA France Academic Advisor and College Counselor.

Un grand merci et bonne continuation a notre ami, Pascal!

For those who want to extend their personal wishes directly to Pascal, please send him an email.

1999 Yearbook Dedication

Pascal Montéville is highly deserving of recognition for his important role in the education and personal lives of his students, the administration of the school, and the overall quality of SYA France. For almost a decade he has immersed himself in the program: directing the theater, accompanying the school on its voyages to diverse corners of the country, holding the position of an academic and personal advisor, and teaching the essential and much-loved course of French Civilization. This course designed and personalized by Pascal has given us a significant understanding of French culture and political system. Having completed Pascal’s curriculum, our perspective on both American and French society has been profoundly enriched. The theater program, an activity which he introduced and has maintained over the years, familiarizes students with a number of French plays and excerpts, while developing their acting and improvisational skills. Of course, one of the most notable qualities of Pascal is his ongoing concern and interest in the well-being of the SYA student community. Always available and happy to give advice or conversation, his insights inspire confidence and understanding.

Ainsi, pour ses années de travail et son intérêt passioné, nous, les rédacteurs de cette publication, sommes très contents de dédier le yearbook de 1998-1999 à Monsieur Pascal Montéville.

The Newsletter of School Year Abroad Winter 2000

Pascal Montéville: Metteur en scène extraordinaire

By Michele Bird, SYA France Academic Advisor and College Counselor

He is a teacher of civilization, the coordinator of student activities and an academic advisor, but to scores of SYAers Pascal Montéville is the director of the theater program in Rennes. Each fall he takes a group of students only just beginning to speak passable French and turns them into a cohesive body of actors and actresses who produce two major productions during the school year. Over the years, his plays, either penned himself or adapted for SYA, have wowed audiences with their originality, creative décor and costuming, surprising music and the burgeoning talent of his players.

Pascal's introduction to theater came in 1974 when he was a 14-year-old collège student in Paimpol on the north coast of Brittany. The director of a small theater club, looking for more male participants, convinced Pascal to join his program. It was on that small stage in Paimpol that Pascal says he discovered a whole new universe. “It was, from my first entrance, a pure pleasure to act before an audience, to make people laugh and cry with my words and actions.”

Now hooked, Pascal, for the next 14 years, worked with this club, which evolved into a much larger troupe of adult actors. Even when he left home to attend university in Rennes, where he earned a degree in history, another in journalism and did advanced studies in literature, he returned every weekend to Paimpol to continue working with the troupe. In 1984 he wrote and directed his first play for them; and two years later he founded a second troupe of young actresses, which he directed for four years. In 1988, this company of girls won a regional competition staging one of Pascal’s original plays and was selected to represent Brittany in a theater festival in Paris.

And that brings Pascal to School Year Abroad. In 1986, Resident Director André Vernet conceived the idea of a theater program at SYA and found Pascal who was then completing his degree in journalism and also directing a number of theater workshops in community centers and schools in Rennes. Pascal came on board, and a new tradition was born at SYA. Pascal directed the school’s theater program for three years and in 1989 also began teaching one literature section.

In 1990 Pascal left France with his new wife, Isabelle, to accept a one-year position as a visiting teacher at Phillips Academy. Eager to extend their stay in the states, the Montévilles were ecstatic when Pascal was invited to teach French at The Thacher School in Ojai, California, taking the place of Geoff Bird, who was leaving to become resident director in Rennes. In Ojai, Pascal worked his magic on stage with Thacher French students, while in Rennes Geoff gamely directed a small theater program and impatiently awaited the day when Pascal would return to SYA and take over the reins. That occurred in September 1993. Pascal and Isabelle returned to France; Pascal began teaching one section of language, and he reinstated his theater program. Today, he works full-time for SYA, teaching four sections of civilization, advising and directing the theater workshop two afternoon a week.

Even students who don’t participate in the theater program know instantly that Pascal is a born comédien. He makes us laugh with his droll assembly announcements or his apt imitations of the stereotypical Frenchman or his physical antics. What’s more, he is even a clown. Really! He is the president and performer for the Big Bang Circus, one of seven circus schools in France that prepares aspiring circus artists for entrance into the national Ecole de Cirque. Although Pascal is not considering a professional career, he loves the circus for the rigorous training, the animation and the physical demands. His own specialties are the unicycle, the balance ball and the tightrope. A fall from the latter last spring left him with a broken thumb, but wasn’t dissuaded him from practicing his craft.

Throughout his schooling, Pascal’s parents had always encouraged him to enter the Education Nationale as a teacher. But Pascal saw French schools as too rigid and as places that don’t do enough to encourage creativity. As much as he fought for the idea of teaching in that system by considering careers as a journalist, a professional actor or director, even a cartoonist, he had always worked with adolescents; and that is what came most naturally to him. Perhaps because he had the good fortune to have a few very special teachers who didn’t conform to the system, he had a better idea about what schools and teaching could be.

And then, he found himself at SYA and discovered the school that he’d only imagined before: a school were "les élèves sont motivés, intéressés, curieux, enthousiastes, et là pour apprendre.” Pascal says he adores the civilization class he teaches because the course is really about life, and he is excited by life; but get him talking about theater and its value for young people, and you discover this man’s true passion.

Pascal believes that his involvement in theater at a young age changed his life. As an adolescent indifferent to sports he found the same kind of equilibrium on stage that athletes find being part of a team on a playing field. He could express himself in a theater role the way he couldn’t always in social contexts. And now, as a director, he has the abundant satisfaction of helping young people express themselves. In doing that he gives his audiences the abundant pleasure of watching our students grow in positive ways as well as seeing some very good theater.