incroyable, inoubliable !

[UPDATE  16 Nov ’10: Tim Shea of Yale Press has set up a site for the official photos (up now) and audio and video (coming later) from the réunion at  Merci, Tim !  Photos that I and my wife Therese took can still be found here and Lyre_byrd has more great photos here. Particularly with all this documentation, I thought the word « inoubliable » needed to be added to the title of this post.]

Back from the réunion.  I’m still pinching myself.  Was it all just a dream?  Did I really meet Professeur Capretz, Valérie Allain and Charles Mayer?? Wait…I have all these photographs. It must have really happened!

It was a fabulous time, as those of you who were lucky enough to have been able to attend know.  It was wonderful to meet a number of you.

My photos of the great event (and those taken by my wife, Therese) are now available on Flickr. Enjoy !

Also, here’s a nice interview of Prof. Capretz that ran in last Friday’s Yale Daily News.

Some who couldn’t attend have asked for a summary of the events.  That’s a tall order!  What I can do is reproduce the schedule from the two days which will give you some idea of what you’re seeing in the photos. All the events were videotaped and, if I understand correctly, will be eventually be made available to the public. Probably the highlights for us FIA fans were Professeur Pierre Capretz’s description of the history of FIA, the question-and-answer session with Charles and Valérie and of course the skit they put on Sunday morning.   A special surprise was that all attendees received an 8×10 glossy of Mireille et Robert, autographed by them.  I hope that we won’t have too long to wait for the official videos and photographs!

The French in Action Reunion at Yale

A 25th Anniversary Celebration

Saturday, October 30

Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street

8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.: Registration and continental breakfast

9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: Opening remarks by Pierre Capretz and Barry Lydgate

Introduction of guest speakers Carol Herron, Diego Arciniegas, and John Lytle

10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.: How French in Action was born: a synopsis of the development, filming, and launch of the program: Pierre Capretz

10:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.: Coffee break

11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: Question and anwer session with Pierre Capretz, Valérie Allain, and Charles Mayer, moderated by Brian Reilly

12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.: Reinvention de l’histoire: examples of student work shown on video

12:45 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Lunch break

2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Teaching and Learning with French in Action in 2010: A panel discussion featuring Barry Lydgate, Carol Herron, Ruth Koizim, Catherine Ostrow, and Sylvaine Egron-Sparrow, moderated by Brian Reilly

3:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: Coffee break

3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Looking Ahead: French in Interaction and new editions of the textbooks and workbooks

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Cocktail hour, Yale Commons, 168 Grove Street

7:30 p.m.: Banquet, Yale Commons

Sunday, October 31

Whitney Humanities Center

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: Breakfast

10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.: John Sullivan: French in Action dans le monde

10:45 a.m. to 12 noon: On n’a pas tous les jours 25 ansLes Retrouvailles de Robert et Mireille: A Special Performance by Valérie Allain and Charles Mayer


35 Réponses

  1. You can’t understand the excitement\happiness and nostalgia that this picture caused me. I used to watch the program every week in Venezuela and I was a huge fan, never missed it. Seeing Prof. Pierre, Mireille and Charles reunited after 25 years almost made me cry. Thank you very much for posting this pictures and letting us now that we FIA fans are not alone! I certainly miss those days and Mireille’s beauty which remains untouched.

  2. Sorry I missed the reunion. I started watching the series on PBS with my Dad when it first came out (kind of a bonding experience), and we still talk about it. Turns out, I was actually in Paris the summer of ’85… I could have used those lessons then.

    I was wondering if anyone has ever discussed the production budget for the series. It seems that a great deal went into the project, lots of shooting, and lots of editing.

    I can’t imagine what it would cost to do today.

  3. What a nice surprise to see some old great teachers..

    From Colombia… I am glad to see Prof Capretz by photos… Sorry It was impossible for me to attend

  4. Charles,
    Please do let us know what projects you are working in. The next time I am in your area I will check the theatre guides.

    I thought of you this morning when I talked to a friend’s daughter, who is home from marine biology grad studies in Australia.

    I am home for now. Will return to Haiti in mid-January.

    Happy New Year to all.

    Martin (aka « Max »)

  5. It is great to see this info and pics of « Robert », « Mireille », and Prof. Capretz for those of us who couldn’t make it to the reunion! I would have loved to have been there. FIA was really something special with fantastic people, which is the reason it still makes such an impact after all these years.

  6. Bonjour John,
    I saw a video of the skit that was sent to me for approval; so it should be available pretty soon.
    I want to congratualte on your number about the cult of FIA which Valérie abd I had missed while rehearsing. I loved it ! I was laughing alone in my apartment.
    You think our skit was sad ? Opos ! Let’s not talk about it until it’s available and people have seen it !
    Please remind me what you are doing in Africa.
    Always a pleasure John,
    Take care,

  7. Charles: I think I can speak for all FIA fans when I say it warms our hearts to know that you and Valérie had a good time together at the reunion and afterwards. Let’s hope there will be other occasions for you two to get together! The skit was great, tho sad. Looking forward to seeing it again on video. Please update us here from time to time on what you’re doing professionally and where we might be able to see you on stage or in film.

  8. Thank you for posting the link to the Yale site…can’t wait for the videos.

    Charles, I think if I were at the Paris airport or walking around NYC and I saw you and Valerie walking around together….I probably would have started grabbing the nearest phone to find a good psychiatrist. « help me, doc….I’ve watched so much French In Action I’m starting to see them together everywhere! »

  9. Bonjour John,
    pleasure to be here, merci !
    Wel, this whole thing was pretty amazing. Valérie and I had not seen or spoken to each other in 23 years till a few weeks ago when we called each other a few times overseas. I happened to be in Paris the week previous the FIA reunion; we didn’t have time to meet, but spoke again on the phone the night before flying to NY to arrange to go to the airport together. At the end of our conversation Valérie asked me :  »Hey Charles, by the way, have you changed ? » I answered I had gained 10 kilos since quitting smoking, and I had wrinkles around the eyes. Then she asked me if…I still had some hair. I answered yes, and that some of it had turned grey.
    The incredible thing was that it felt like continuing the adventures of Mireille et Robert. We had literally spent the whole summer of 1985 shooting together almost every day, and 23 years later we found ourselves spending almost all our time together, beginning at the airport in Paris, to Yale and then NY. Fiction seemed to become reality as I couldn’t find my passport just before boarding the plane, something that had NEVER happened to me, and I have done quite a bit of traveling. Very Robertesque, n’est ce pas ?
    The weekend was kind of surreal. Seeing Pierre, Sylvie and Barry Friday evening, then meeting a lot of wonderful people and fans on Saturday, including our beloved artistic director Christian Siret – yes, the Belleau’s neighbor, a fact Valérie and I had forgotten – and who had flown from…Bulgaria; the Q & A session, the cocktail, dinner, the skit, plus pictures and autographs, all that was incroyable. Being mostly a theatre actor, I was not used to such a thing at all; Valérie was more than me. I asked her if it felt like when she would go to openings of films she had starred in and she said it was pretty similar.

    After the reunion Mireille and Robert, oops, Valérie and I went to NY, where we saw the Halloween Parade on 6th avenue Sunday nignt, spent all Monday together visiting NY, including the MOMA, then the Village and the Meat Market District on Tuesday; we didn’t meet Tuesday night nor Wednesay morning, but went together to the bus terminal where we parted, Valérie going to JFK, me to Laguardia. I had the feeling I was waking up from a wonderful dream.

    As for the skit, we exchanged ideas on the plane and on Saturday, and rehearsed it a couple of times Sunday before performing it.

    Voilà pour l’instant.
    A bientôt tout le monde,
    PS : Here’s a link to the Yale’s official blog of the French in Action Reunion :

  10. Charles ! Great to have you here. Please come back and give us a few of your impressions about the Reunion ! One question I have for you: what was the process by which you and Valérie came up with your skit with which you closed the proceedings? How much time did you need to practice it?

  11. Last time was for an interview for the Boston Globe in 1987 😉
    Bonjour tout le monde,

  12. Charles said the last time they saw each other was in 1986 for ADR dubbing.

  13. Unfortunately, I could not get to the reunion.

    It would be interesting to hear from Le Prof, Charles and Valerie about their reactions to the reunion. Have they been in contact all these years, and if not what were their reactions to seeing each other again? Do they feel that FIA had a meaningful influence on the subsequent course of their lives?

    From the photos, they do not seem to have changed as much as I would have expected over a quarter century. Prof still looks just like a Yale professor. Valerie is still beautiful. Charles has changed from a prep to hip.

  14. I discovered FIA only 2 years ago in a french class prior to a visit to Paris. Charming and delightful. I learned a little bit of french and thoroughly enjoyed the FIA episodes.

    It’s a bit of a walk back in time to the 80s. Very nostalgic. I wish I could have gone to the reunion.

    Merci beaucoup to Professor Capretz and all of those who created FIA.

  15. I can add a little more to this…I did attempt to speak with all three. I have to admit I was completely terrified approaching Le Prof to get his autograph in my textbook. I am still very shy with my french and don’t think I said my rehearsed line very loud but got a polite smile from him (along with the autograph).
    I attempted to speak to Valérie and accidentally called her Mireille, I immediately started apologizing and she then told me (all in french so far) that it had been her mother’s name. I asked her if she spoke english and she said « a little bit ». She was very warm and friendly and I’m so glad I took the chance to talk to her.
    Robert was also very sweet, I only had a second to talk to him (a lot of ladies crowded around him) but he seemed very humbled by it all and very flattered.
    On Sunday morning a said « Bonjour » to Le Prof and got a big warm smile that made my day. I was with a new friend who speaks excellent french and they chatted a bit. He also seemed very pleased by it all.
    I hope that JP’s presentation will be on video with the rest that they are releasing, you guys are going to love it! We really are an odd little cult, aren’t we?

  16. Merci, JP, Lyre_Bryd, and Max.

    Yesterday I was just bursting with questions and couldn’t contain myself any longer. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your photos with us. It’s almost (but, not quite) like being there myself. Can’t wait for the video!

  17. Interesting that so many ask about Virginie. Her character certainly was important to the series. Valerie said she was a nice, sweet kid. Acting is a very tough profession. Many child performers do not go on as adults.

    Valerie was very fiendly and nice. I too was shy about hanging around gawking. Charles introduced me to her, and I told him it made my year.

    The professors were also very nice and friendly. I have not had so much fun since Christmas.

    Back in Haiti for another month.

  18. I’ll take a quick stab at some of the questions.

    Were the talks in English or French…or a little of both?

    A little of both and the French was not so overwhelming!
    What did they serve at the banquet?

    There always seemed to be food available all day: muffins, breads, juice, coffee and tea, sandwiches etc.
    At the cocktail reception there were platters of grilled vegetables and a very well stocked bar. Not sure if there were other hors d’œuvres served, but somehow my glass kept getting re-filled! Mystère et boules de gomme.

    At the time of online-registration one had to choose their menu choice for dinner. There was a green salad for all, and then a chicken breast or a fillet of white fish (halibut maybe?), or a pasta in tomato sauce. Dessert was a three chocolate mousse.

    What did the actors have to say about working on the project?

    All very positive and enthusiastic. I remember tidbits about spilled coffee on a shirt, a lost passport, and the cast getting inebriated during the morning shoot of dinner chez les Coutois. Charles mentioned that his favourite episode was # 49 where Marie-Laure disappears. It’s absolutely my favourite too! Both he and Valérie got the chance to really employ their acting skills.

    Those of you who went…..did you try speaking to the Prof. and Valerie and Charles in French?…or was that just too scary?

    I spoke to Charles, my fellow Canadian, in English, and specifically about learning French in Canada. My biggest regret was not having spoken to Valérie. She was constantly surrounded by people, so Valérie I will say it now: vous êtes ‘vachement’ belle.

    Jp……how did your “cult” presentation go?

    I must interject and reiterate that jps really did give us an inspiring presentation and I was doubled over with laughter for most of it. He’s a zoologist in real life. Impressive!

    Did Charles and Valerie put on a sketch about meeting again in present day?

    Yes, and I found it really touching. Mireille started out being so sweet whilst leading up to the ultimate question: “Why didn’t you call me! We spent the whole summer together…”
    I got a pit in my stomach and wanted to hit (doucement!) Robert and hug Mireille!
    I also recognized the nerdy, annoying kid in the class among the panel.

    Ah, Michael, aka Diego Arciniegas. I made a bee-line for him first thing Saturday morning. He was sitting in a corner of the breakfast room by himself and I told him I’d come to terms with my intense dislike of his character and upon reflection found him quite amusing! He seemed a great fellow with a grand sense of humour. His pic is fourth one along in my flickr slideshow which I already posted but I just added the signed photos of Pierre, Charles and Valérie, so here’s the link again:

    À bientôt!

  19. I’ll attempt to answer some of the questions about the reunion. The short gentleman with the big smile in several of the photos is Christian Siret who was the art director during the production and post-production and it was indeed he in leçon 23 with the apron, stirring the pot, when Robert rings the wrong door, looking for chez Courtois. Good spot, Vicki ! I thought he looked familiar, but didn’t put it together until you asked the question. I confirmed this with Sylvie Mathe, a still photographer for FIA who you see in a number of my photos. I will try to add names to captions on the photos when I get a chance.

    Some of the talks were in French, others in English (I gave mine in English, but I did speak to the Prof and to Valérie and Charles in French). I had just returned from Congo where I’d been giving my limited language skills a workout, so it came easier than it otherwise would have. My impression was that while Charles Mayer is completely fluent in English (as are most francophone Montrealers), Valérie was less comfortable with it. I don’t think I heard her say anything in English the whole time.

    The food at the banquet was good…there was chicken, fish and a veggie option in a lovely setting.

    I received a lot of compliments on my talk…it was a huge honor.

    As for Virginie Contesse, all there is to say is  » Mystère et boules de gomme !  » Valérie says she lost track of her about six years after the production of FIA when she was 18. Apparently she did no more acting. I have no idea if an attempt was made to contact her for the reunion. At the banquet all the guests were given a small bag of gum drops « de la part de Marie-Laure. »

    Maybe Donna or Lyre_byrd can field some of the other questions!

  20. Where the talks in English or French…or a little of both? What did they serve at the banquet? What did the actors have to say about working on the project? Those of you who went…..did you try speaking to the Prof. and Valerie and Charles in French?…or was that just too scary? Jp……how did your « cult » presentation go? Your slides looked very amusing. I have soooo many questions when I look at these photos. C’mon, guys…..SPILL!! We want details!

  21. Oh, wow! Can’t believe it, I have tears in my eyes looking at these pics, especially of notre bon professeur. Thank you guys who attended for your pics and your posts!

    Unfortunately without captions I can’t really identify the other members of the cast who attended. Could you tell us who all was there, by the names of the characters? (I never learned the actors’ names aside from the 2 stars.) Then even without captions I ought to be able to puzzle out who is who, though of course Robert and Mireille would be impossible to miss. Nice of Valerie to fix her hair the same way as young Mireille! This is all so amazing for an FIA addict like myself (still only up to chapitre 33!)

  22. @jpsullivan, mais oui, un pique-nique romantique en France, peut-être au bord de la Garonne ou la Dordogne!

  23. Thanks for sharing the pictures!! It must have been amazing!! I’m looking forward to seeing the videos!

    Did anyone ask about Virginie Contesse (Marie Laure) ? Where is shenow? What is she doing? Was she contacted to come to the event?


    Caroline (from Brazil)

  24. Thanks Lyre Byrd for sharing your great photos!
    VIcki – They did say that many of the crew often had to stand in for various roles that they needed, you may be right.
    Just finished putting up my signed photos from Le Prof, Valérie et Charles in my office along with one you took JP of Le Prof signing my textbook in front of a window.
    Still thrilled from it all…

  25. Thank you for posting the pictures and we sure are waiting impatiently for the videos. This was really an historical event!

  26. Magnifique!

  27. Vicki : that’s exactly what they did. At some point a video of it is supposed to be released.

  28. Great photos too, lyre_byrd!

    Did Charles and Valerie put on a sketch about meeting again in present day? (That’s what it looks like in the photos).

  29. Lyre_byrd : thanks for sharing those great photos! Are you saving the bottle of wine for a special occasion?

  30. I have a few photos (sorry I uploaded them completely out of order!).
    Hope this link works:

  31. Wish we had been there! Look like you had a fabulous time. We live in Paris – maybe I should look up Mde Allain!

  32. Oh WOW!!! Thank you so much for sharing these photos! What a wonderful time you must have had! Makes you feel a bit old when you see a more mature Robert and Mireille but then we’re ALL a little bit older, aren’t we?

    I also recognized the nerdy, annoying kid in the class among the panel. Did anyone share any interesting tidbits about the other actors or about filming?

    Who was the petit, bald man on the panel….he kind of reminded me of the guy that answers the door when Robert is looking for the Courtois apartment. But……nah, it couldn’t be him.

    Your pictures are great. I especially liked the one at the end with Charles and Valerie holding their puppets and sitting with their heads together. Oh, please share some more info when you have the time. Thanks so much!

  33. The FIA reunion was great fun. It was awesome to meet Prof. Capretz; and it goes without saying it was terrific to meet Valerie and Charles. Good to see you there, JP.

  34. This picture is great! I can’t wait to see more. It was a truly amazing time, I’m still walking on air myself.

  35. Je suis comblée de joie et d’émotion aussi!
    Quelle aventure!

    It was wonderful to meet so many interesting people.
    jp, many thanks for suggesting a reunion in the first place and for your most entertaining presentation. Matthew, I loved how you referred to me as ‘la canadienne’.

    Monsieur Capretz, vraiment , je n’ai pas de mots…

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