The Comédie-Française and theatrical training
The Faubourg Saint-Germain, where the new Troupe set up its theatre in 1680, was a place of all kinds of entertainment. In particular, jeux de paume (real tennis) thrived there: the size and layout of these courts made them easily convertible to theatres. The sons and daughters of actors, living with the Troupe and performing the roles of their generation from an early age, were therefore the successors of the children of real tennis players, or the “children of the ball”, who also practised from childhood.
Actors by vocation gradually succeeded actors by family tradition.
The idea of creating a school gained ground in the eighteenth century until finally coming to pass in 1784. A drama class opened in 1786 within the Royal school of singing and declamation, in which Talma was one of the first students. The teaching activity of this school (to which today’s national theatre school, the Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique, is the direct successor) was closely linked to the Comédie-Française: the sociétaires of the school taught there and almost all the pensionnaires entering the Troupe emerged from it.
The famous graduation competitions thus acted as the breeding ground for actors who entered the Théâtre-Français up to the 1970s. Along side actors, the workshops always trained young apprentices in the fields of costume or set making.
The members of the Comédie-Française’s current Academy follow in the continuity of this history that makes the Comédie-Française a place of transmission of the theatre arts.