The 69th the Avignon Festival opens (Jul. 4 – 25, 2015)
Held every July in the old city of Avignon in southern France, the Avignon Festival (Festival d’Avignon) is one of the world’s largest theatre festivals. The festival’s director since 2013 is the former artistic director of The Odeon Theater, Olivier Py. Due to a strike by members of the Intermittents (freelance workers in the performing arts industry) union protesting changes in unemployment rights, last year’s festival was disrupted considerably, including the cancellation of some performances at the main venue, where the invited production from Japan Maharabharata, l’episode du roi Nata directed by Satoshi Miyagi were scheduled.
The 2015 program included 38 invited productions. Olivier Py directed a production of King Lear at the main venue, the central court of the Palais des Papes. The great Polish director Krystian Lupa, who continues to present boldly conceived productions in his seventies, adapted and directed Woodcutters based on 1984 text by the Austrian author Thomas Bernhard translated into Polish. In the past, Lupa has also directed the Bernhard play Perturbation.
The playwright, director and painter Valère Novarina, a leader in contemporary French theater known for his experimental approach to language, presents his new work Le Vivier des noms (The Breeding Pool of Names). German director Thomas Ostermeyer presents a production of Richard III. Among the younger artists are the Israeli musician duo Winter Family (Ruth Rosenthal and Xavier Klaine) who made their theater debut in 2011 and this time present their second work, a documentary style piece titled No World/FPLL, while among others the Portuguese director Tiago Rodrigues present his production of Anthony and Cleopatra.
The Avignon Festival was founded by actor and director Jean Vilar in 1947. Vilar believed that theater was an art that should be open to people from all levels of the society and promoted a popular theater movement, and to realize his vision, he began giving outdoor performances in the central court of the Palais des Papes, which had once been a palace of the Vatican in the small city of Avignon in southern France. He declared that it was not military or political might but theater that was the true measure of the greatness of a country’s culture. Since the postwar period, the festival has been held every year except the year 1968 when a strike occurred. From 2004, the festival has adopted an “associate artist” system under which a different artist is chosen every year to participate in the selection of the next festival’s program. In recent years, the program includes about 40 works performed at some 20 venues around the city, with the central court of the Palais des Papes and the Carrière de Boulbon quarry as two of the main venues. Visitors during the festival total about 100,000 each year, a number roughly equal to the city’s population. The European press regularly publishes feature articles about the Avignon Festival with daily critiques of the performances that at times spark large-scale debates in the theater world, as was the case with the works of Jan Fabre in 2005. Held simultaneously with the festival is the Avignon Theater Festival OFF (http://www.avignon-off.org) presenting a large number of works. The OFF festival adopts an open participation policy. Also, in addition to performing arts many exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings and other events are held, bringing a festive mood to the entire city throughout the festival’s run. Director Olivier Py was appointed festival director in 2013. The 2014 festival featured from Japan Maharabharata, l’episode du roi Nata directed by Satoshi Miyagi and French master Claude Régy directed Japanese actors in a production of Maurice Maeterlinck’s Intérieur.
- Festival d’Avignon