French Theatre Today
The View from New York, Paris, and Avignon
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Iowa Press
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Which contemporary French stage works have you seen? If you are a casual Francophile, you are likely to mention Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” a smart comedy that was a box- office hit when it played in English translation on Broadway in 1998. Or her amusing God of Carnage, a darling of the New York critics in 2009 and the winner of ...
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For making time to speak with me about their work, I express warm gratitude to Jean- Marie Besset, Anne Delb�e, Koffi Kwahul�, Arthur Nauzyciel, Val�re Novarina, Jos� Pliya, Philippe Quesne, Pascal Rambert, Fabrice Rozi�, Marion Schoevaert, members of Superamas, Ivan Talijancic, Gis�le Vienne, and Michel Vinaver. I also profited from ...
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In late November 2007 Time magazine’s European edition ran a cover story titled “The Death of French Culture.” The reporter, Donald Morrison, lamented that “France today is a wilting power in the global cultural marketplace,” and he cited a recent poll in Le Figaro Magazine showing that only 20 percent of Americans considered culture ...
Part 1: New York
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Ariane Mnouchkine’s Le dernier caravansérail: odyssées (The Last Caravan- Stop: Odysseys) is a gripping saga of the plight of political refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Chechnya, Bosnia, and parts of Africa. It was both the centerpiece of the annual Lincoln Center Festival in July 2005 and the kickoff event for ACT FRENCH— ...
2. Star Power, Gallic Style
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In France, major actors typically travel between the worlds of the theatre and the cinema with more ease and regularity than their American counterparts. ACT FRENCH enabled New York audiences to bask in the live presence of three glamorous performers whose work is known on this side of the Atlantic mainly via film and ...
3. Three Fresh Voices
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It is frequently said that the promise of contemporary American theatre lies in the creative hands and minds of our nation’s minorities. The contributions of African American, Asian American, Latino, gay, and feminist playwrights have, indeed, over the past several decades transformed and revitalized the American theatrical ...
4. From Dialogue to Parole
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The verbally and viscerally scorching performances of Isabelle Huppert in Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis (chapter 2) and of the six actresses in the staged reading of Koffi Kwahulé’s Misterioso-119 (chapter 3) were a tantalizing foretaste of what I would soon recognize as a distinctive tendency of current writing for the French stage. This ...
5. Edgy and Cool
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In addition to the dazzling works representing theatre of la parole, ACT FRENCH treated New Yorkers to choice specimens of another leading strain of stage pieces, one that might simply be called ‘media theatre.’ These were experimental works—by such younger creative artists as Philippe Quesne and Pascal Rambert, and by ...
Part 2: Paris
6. Great Classics Revisited
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The variety and quantity of stage performances available on any given day in Paris are staggering. During a typical week of my six- month stay in the City of Light, I was able to choose from 479 events playing at 172 venues.1 Most of these shows took place in fairly conventional theatre spaces, large and small. Yet just as integral to ...
7. Boulevard, Experimental, and In-between
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What visitor to Paris does not respond sentimentally to the sight of a Morris column? The City of Light boasts 733 of these imposing, sometimes rotating, pillars that display eye- catching posters for nightclub shows, concerts, movies, and boulevard plays. They are as much a fixture of the Paris streetscape as are the carts of pretzel and ...
8. Three Prodigious Artists
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Among the literary dramatists who are revitalizing French theatre today, three figures stand out for their originality, fecundity, and stature: Michel Vinaver, Valère Novarina, and Olivier Py. Each is a dominant figure in what we described in chapter 3 as theatre of la parole. In their resistance to language’s debasement by commercial ...
9. Cultural Diversity (I): Ethnicities
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Just after ACT FRENCH began in New York, I saw a remarkable new French- language film that was showing at the IFC Center near Washington Square: Abdellatif Kechiche’s L’esquive (Games of Love and Chance, 2004). The Tunisian- born Kechiche (b. 1960) would become better known in this country two years later when his next ...
10. Cultural Diversity (II): Operas and Circuses
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Socially driven plots and neo-expressionist scene painting. The boulevard and the experimental. Tradition- bound revivals and provocative riffs on the classics. One- person stand- up and big- cast spectacles. Extolments of the Word and dance- text- video hybrids. As the preceding four chapters have shown, the variety of contemporary ...
Part 3: Avignon
11. A Festival Turns Sixty
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Each July a small medieval- walled city in Provence hosts one of the grandest theatre jamborees on the planet. For three and a half weeks, from 10 A.m. to well after midnight, its winding streets and picturesque public squares swarm with festival goers of all ages and of numerous nationalities. Avignon’s year- round population is about ...
12. Recap and Coda: French Theatre Tomorrow
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The snapshot of Stefan Kaegi’s Cargo Sofia- Avignon in chapter 11 returns us to the multilingual, transnational masterwork with which we began this exploration of contemporary French theatre: Ariane Mnouchkine’s Le dernier caravansérail: odyssées (The Last Caravan- Stop: Odysseys). By coincidence, Mnouchkine’s film adaptation ...
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For Further Reading
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Page Count: 367
Publication Year: 2011