Finding a New Theater Audience, Far From France’s Cities
It all started when an actor’s grandmother, Lazare Herson-Macarel, allowed organizers to take over her backyard. After his death in 2012, a crowdfunding campaign raised 70,000 euros, or about $ 82,000, to keep the festival on his property, and local authorities chose to buy and rent it free of charge at collective.
The festival’s audience has grown steadily and in 2019, before the pandemic, it attracted around 10,000 visitors. Last month it took a different step when the Festival d’Avignon, the most prestigious event in French theater, presented one of its productions, “Le ciel, la nuit et la fête”, a trilogy of six hours of Molière’s plays. The three pieces will alternate this month at Fontaine-Guérin.
The theatrical establishment may be realizing the vitality of rural festivals, but there is still a long way to go, members of the federation say. Economically, festivals remain fragile, especially during the pandemic, and they often escape the criteria for local and regional funding. “The performances in rural areas are not recognized as ‘real’ performances, because they do not take place in identified places,” said Pauline Bolcatto, member of the Nouveau Théâtre Populaire and one of the architects of the federation, during a telephone interview.
This summer, members of the federation exchanged advice and information, Bolcatto said, and discussed how best to implement France’s new health pass, a government policy that obliges businesses and organizations alike. event planners to verify proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test before admitting clients.
The noise generated by the daily outdoor performances was not to everyone’s liking in the quiet parts of the countryside. In 2019, the Nouveau Théâtre Populaire had to take legal action initiated by a neighbor; so far the decisions have been in favor of the troops. The King of the Heart also faced complaints, and found a compromise: the festival will continue in its current form until the tenth edition, in 2023, then move to a location yet to be determined.
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