The Playgoer: Comédie-Française Shakedown

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Comédie-Française Shakedown

From today's Arts, Briefly:

France’s culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, has named a woman to run the Comédie-Française for the first time since it was founded in 1680. Next month, the actress and stage director Muriel Mayette, 42, will succeed Marcel Bozonnet, who is said to have hoped to remain in the job until 2009. Mr. Bozonnet, 62, has won plaudits as general manager of the company, France’s national theater. But this spring he provoked a storm of criticism when he abruptly canceled a scheduled new play by the Austrian writer Peter Handke after Mr. Handke attended the funeral of the former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. In an interview with Le Monde, Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres denied that the Handke affair had influenced his decision to replace Mr. Bozonnet. He said he named Ms. Mayette to seek “a generational change.”
(Byline: Alan Riding)

Blogger-Playwright Ben Ellis, as ever, is on the job in Paris and has more. He maintains the local coverage there makes clear Bozonnet was "sacked." If so, this means the French government itself has dismissed an appointee for not producing the work of a politically controversial writer.
But even if the minister of culture is not a free speech hero, it's interesting that the government does not want to be tainted by even the hint of censorship. L'Affaire Handke turned out to be pretty bad press for them. So if there was any doubt originally over whether Bozonnet's original decision to cancel Handke's play implied state censorship per se, note how the state has now taken a big step to distance itself from that decision, so as to exonerate themselves from that logical judgment. (As opposed to saying something like, "Bozonnet is a free agent, he does not represent the French government.")
Whatever the pressures were to bring this about, it's still good to see the whiff of censorship being perceived as bad for business, and not being rewarded.

1 comment:

Ben Ellis said...

Thank you again for the mention. I've just added a rough translation of Marcel Bozonnet's first interview after the 'non-reappointment' in Le Monde, here.