The French Theater since 1930: Six Contemporary Full-Length Plays

The French Theater since 1930: Six Contemporary Full-Length Plays

The French Theater since 1930: Six Contemporary Full-Length Plays

The French Theater since 1930: Six Contemporary Full-Length Plays

Excerpt

The theater in France, and especially the theater in Paris, occupies a position for which there is no equivalent in the United States. It is a gauge of the intellectual, moral, spiritual, and artistic life of the nation. The theater is less than in America a question of pure entertainment. An aristocratic tradition of art protects the theater, frees it to an extent from popular demands, and helps to perpetuate it as a pure art form. Serious plays are numerous, and even today French audiences are able to enjoy dramas which would be considered heavy or dreary in the United States. There is consequently more freedom for the playwright, who is able to attack subjects which he considers worthy of treatment in themselves. There is more restricted concern for personalities and stars, and a greater public awareness of the talent which they display in their roles. The author and the director occupy a position of eminence; the name of Jouvet commands greater respect than that of Marais; Cocteau, Giraudoux, or Sartre become popular figures and the objects of public curiosity.

The French audience is very aware that behind every production there is the creative spirit of an artist. This respect for a tradition of art in the theater is not an empty formality. It is the recognition on the part of the audience that imagination, content, and form are necessary in any work of art, and that it is not granted to everyone to possess these qualities. Approximately seventy-five theaters in Paris offer twice this number of productions in a given season. Attendance is a matter of public education. Every variety of performance is represented, and it is possible to classify the theaters of Paris according to the level and kind of entertainment which they offer. Reasonable admission rates make it possible to attend the theater more frequently than in the United States, to see a greater number of productions, and to follow the developments in the important theaters. The actors themselves enjoy the freedom which arises from these special conditions. A production is a group enterprise; artistic values dominate; each troupe, similar still to the traveling players of former times, possesses its ideology, represents a school of thought. Less hampered than in America by elaborate regulations controlling labor, the production profits by a spirit of co-operation and devotion which cuts across all levels of the theatrical hierarchy. All values, even human values, are subordinated to the central task of . . .

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