education, the state and the church; foreign policy; nationalization and privatization; parties and movements; radio (private/free)
b. 1934, Boulogne-sur-Seine
Ariane Mnouchkine is perhaps the most influential director in France today, noted for her willingness to take risks, to experiment and to combine different theatrical traditions in order to search for a relevant, contemporary voice.
Since her student days, she has worked with the theatre company she founded in 1964 (and now directs), the now internationally renowned Théâtre du Soleil, which since 1970 has been based at the Cartoucherie, Vincennes. In terms of style, she is recognized for adopting a non-authoritarian stance: her view of the director's role is to co-ordinate the thoughts and ideas of her company into a coherent form, rather than forcing them to conform to her own prescribed vision. During the last three decades she has aimed to explore the role of the actor and his or her relationship to the audience, retaining a political message in her productions. A confirmed left-winger, she directs the Théâtre du Soleil along strictly democratic lines. In the 1970s, the company was particularly noted for collective creations, such as the renowned 1789 (filmed by Mnouchkine in 1974), for their challenging new approach to performance, and for their staging and innovative methods of relating historical fact.
After other successful collective creation projects, including 2793 and L'Age d'or (The Golden Age) between 1972 and 1975, Mnouchkine turned to film for her new challenge, making Molière, la vie d'un honnête homme (Molière, the Life of an Honest Man) between 1976 and 1977 with a cast from the Théâtre du Soleil, using many of the principles acquired in previous stage productions. She went on to adapt Thomas Mann's Mephisto in 1979, before returning to text-based productions. Inspired by her knowledge of Eastern theatre, Mnouchkine and the Soleil embarked upon a series of Shakespeare plays which gained her renewed renown for her radical, fresh approach, borrowing from Indian and Japanese performance traditions. She experimented further, between 1990 and 1993, with a series of plays based on Greek tragedies called Les Atrides, again exploring existing theatre traditions in a search for a way of conveying a contemporary political message. Mnouchkine's recent work has also attempted to confront twentieth-century concerns, especially in her collaboration with Hélène Cixous. Her epic plays, sometimes as much as nine hours long, deal with issues as varied as: the legacy of colonialism in Cambodia, as in 1985's L'Histoire terrible mais inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk roi du Cambodge (The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia); the partitioning of India in L'Indiade (1987); and French government corruption in La Ville parjure (Treacherous City), in 1994, into which she incorporates valuable lessons learned from the Soleil's Greek cycle. In 1995, she directed a memorable production of Tartuffe, giving Molière's classic contemporary relevance by setting it in the troubled Algeria of the 1990s.