A summer without the Avignon Festival, an economic drama for the theater

«What are we going to do? And how?»Theater companies for whom the«off“D’Avignon is a must see every summer live the cancellation of the festival as”a trauma»And are struggling to bring out alternatives. “Not participating in Avignon, that changes everything», Told AFP Xavier Lemaire, director of the company Les Larrons.

With nearly 1,500 shows, more than 1,000 companies and thousands of professionals, the festival is the largest live performance market in France: nearly 20% of purchases of plays in France are made there. A kind of “rotating plate“Like”fringeOf the Edinburgh Festival, also canceled.

«Avignon allows an exhibition and ensures the sale of shows, which then ensures the production of other shows. When we stop it, everything stops“Says the director who had three shows scheduled for the 2020 edition which should have started on Friday. From March to the end of July, he lost 90 dates and 260,000 euros in turnover. And broadcast its shows online? This “removes emotion, while the theater is built around a stage and an audience».

No recovery before 2021

The difficulties are not the same, between small independent companies and subsidized companies, those which already have a certain reputation and the more recent ones.

Guy-Pierre Couleau, director of the subsidized company Des Lumières et Des Ombres, was to present a show at the Théâtre des Halles, which is part of the Scènes d’Avignon network.

The company did not have to advance money for the rental of the room, a chance in Avignon where the places have multiplied, sometimes renting at exorbitant prices. And despite “obligations of result“And”artistic and cultural education», She continues to receive her subsidy (around 80,000 euros).

Today, Mr. Couleau thinks of giving up his show for good. “To set up such a project, it takes two or three years of work. If I ever had to leave, it wouldn’t be before 2022 or 2023 and the theaters tell us there is going to be a traffic jam».

This fear is shared by Julie Timmerman, author, director and director of the company Idio’mécanic. She was not playing there this year but had planned meetings with theaters and institutions to prepare for the 2021 edition of the festival, a step “indispensableAccording to her to attract theater directors and programmers.

«As everything is postponed, I’m afraid there is no room for those who want to create in 2021», She explains. Before adding, worried: “SBearing in mind that the tour which comes from Avignon is always n + 1. If we go there in 2022, we only shoot in 2023-2024».

An Avignon “online»

In the city of the Popes itself, many theaters have offered companies to resume their show next year. An emergency fund for theaters in Avignon is also being set up, “on condition that they reimburse the companies that had incurred costs», Warns Pierre Beffeyte, president of the Off festival in Avignon.

Theater professionals have benefited from partial unemployment measures and the blank year granted to intermittents by President Macron but some, like the authors, are largely excluded from aid measures.

«We made 15 proposals with the National Union of Directors to create an aid fund because we have to find a way to compensate authors for canceled dates.», Underlines Cyril Le Grix, vice-president of this union.

Then he continues his remarks: “It is very difficult for companies to see clearly. There are almost only special cases and we fear to see the second wave return (of Covid-19, Editor’s note) when the live show has not yet started to restart, it would be catastrophic.»

To offer artists visibility, a solidarity project, “Avignon Online», Was created in an attempt to virtually revive the festival, offer promotional videos for shows and showcase the theaters’ programming.

And as a small consolation, from July 16 to 23, a cycle of readings of about fifteen unpublished contemporary texts is organized in the cloister of the Palais des Papes, a Mecca in Avignon.

Also to see – Patron of the Vieilles Charrues, Jérôme Trehorel asks for the maintenance of partial unemployment until the end of the year for festivals


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