This is the life of illusion. Wrapped up in trouble, laced with confusion. What are we doing here?

Having emigrated to France with only a rudimentary level of French, a six month old baby and no particular career to speak of – many people described our decision to set up life in Strasbourg, fourteen years ago, as somewhere between ‘very ambitious’ and ‘flipping bonkers.’ That said, the very same people have recently described our move as ‘very lucky’ or ‘incredibly wise’ following the Brexit shitschturm unleashed on our former home nation by the Conservative party.

Nonetheless, it is comforting to know that, now and again, Strasbourg has welcomed other couples with an equal sense of adventure.

We sat down for a coffee at Café Brant some years ago with one such couple. They were from the United States and were hoping to use Strasbourg as a base for a new chapter in their respective careers. Careers as – opera singers. Being at the very centre of western Europe – equidistant between Milan and London, Paris and Vienna, it seemed a sensible place from which to add some of Europe’s most respected operatic stages to their respective résumés. What little we knew of the opera circuit from long time friend and stage hero, Darren Abrahams, this all seemed like a very feasible idea. We made encouraging noises, and crossed our fingers for them.

However their plans, for whatever reason, did not pan out. The cosmos had clearly decided that their fates lay elsewhere. Elsewhere – as in another sphere-slash-domain, for they are still in Strasbourg and pillars of the English speaking community. And rightly so.

Victor Benedetti (Baritone) and Juliana Rambaldi (Soprano) are the driving force behind YATS – the Young Actors Theater of Strasbourg. According to the YATS website: The goal of the Young Actors Theater Strasbourg (YATS) is to provide opportunities within the Strasbourg community to promote American theater culture through plays, musicals and educational programs.

That mission, I can safely say, has been met, nay exceeded, time and time again over the past 7 years. All of my kids have participated in shows directed by Victor – who, at the time of writing, is about to strike set on this year’s YATS spectacular production of Grease* at Le Point D’Eau in Ostwald.

What sets YATS shows apart – are the incredibly high standards set by the production team and the talented young performers from around Strasbourg. A YATS show targets the same level of perfection as you would expect from any Broadway spectacular: pitch-perfect singing, flawless choreography, stunning costumes, neat sets, cool lighting and cracking acoustics! It should come as no surprise then that all of YATS’ musicals usually sell-out within a matter of days (approximately 1200 tickets over 6 performances) – and parents only make up around a quarter of the 200-strong nightly audience.

Of course, such perfection comes at a price, both literally and metaphorically. The cost of producing such dazzling entertainment requires financial investment from parents over and above the time and dedication from everyone who plays a part in the production of the actual shows. In short, as a non-profit association, YATS only survives thanks to the support of the wider community.

You might perhaps describe the amount of work and money required to put on a YATS show as ‘very ambitious’ or ‘flipping bonkers’ – but, trust me, it’s worth every centime and every minute of sweat – especially when you see the joy on the faces of the kids on (and off) stage. Of course, it may also prove to be the launch pad to future careers on stage and/or screen… or perhaps as traveling opera singers?

We take the pressure and we throw away.
Conventionality belongs to yesterday.
There is a chance that we can make it so far.
We start believing now that we can be who we are.