Jean-Marie Besset

Last updated
Jean-Marie Besset portrait Jean-Marie Besset portrait.jpg
Jean-Marie Besset portrait

Jean-Marie Besset (born 1959) is a French contemporary playwright, translator and theater director.


He has been nominated ten times for the Molière award (France's Tony Award) - six times as Best Playwright and four times as Best Translator. He won in 1999 for his adaptation of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen. He won the Best New Play award from the Syndicat National de la Critique Dramatique (Association of French Critics) for Ce qui arrive et ce qu'on attend in 1993, the New Theater Talent prize from the SACD (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers), also in 1993, and the Grand prix du théâtre de l'Académie française in 2005. He was named Chevalier (1995) and Officier (2002) in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and Chevalier in the Ordre national du Mérite (2009) by the French government.

Early life and career

Born in Carcassonne on November 22, 1959, Besset spent his youth in Limoux, a small town in the southwest of France and continued his studies in Paris following the baccalauréat. After graduating from the École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales (ESSEC) in 1981 and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris in 1984, he began to pursue his career as a playwright. After fulfilling his national service at the French Institute in London (1984–85), he lived in New York from 1986 to 1998.

In 1999, he returned to France to become the artistic director of the Théâtre de l'Atelier, a landmarked Paris theatre acquired by Laura Pels. In 2000, in partnership with producer/director Gilbert Désveaux, he formed the company BCDV THEATRE to initiate and mount projects (among which was a summer theatre festival, NAVA – New Authors in the Aude Valley.)

Besset was elected onto the board of the Society of French Playwrights (SACD) from 2001-2003 and again in 2009. He was a literary consultant for the Theatre du Rond Point from 2002 until 2009. He held the position of Director of the Centre-Dramatique National du Languedoc-Roussillon in Montpelier from 2010 until 2013.

His first play Villa Luco, directed by Jacques Lassalle, with Hubert Gignoux as Philippe Pétain, Maurice Garrel as Charles de Gaulle and the author himself as a young warden, premiered at Théâtre National de Strasbourg in May 1989. It was subsequently produced in Paris, Théâtre Paris Villette, and on tour throughout France and Belgium (1990). The author was profiled in the International Herald Tribune that same year (Of Television, Molière and de Gaulle by Thomas Quinn Curtiss, November 26, 1990). [1]

Besset's other plays include:

Besset has co-written two comedic plays with Régis de Martrin-Donos:

Besset has also directed and co-directed a number of plays, including some of his own:

American career

His first American production came in 1992 when UBU Repertory Theatre showcased his The Best of Schools, translated by Mark O'Donnell, directed by Evan Yionoulis, starring Jonathan Freedman, Gil Bellows, Mira Sorvino, Danny Zorn. This debut was praised by Clive Barnes in the New York Post and got a mixed review in The New York Times , March 11, 1992 by D.J.R. Bruckner. [2]

His first American success was the New York Theatre Workshop's production of What You Get And What You Expect translated by Hal J. Witt, directed by Christopher Ashley. The play was very favorably reviewed by Bruce Weber in The New York Times, [3] Michael Feingold in the Village Voice , [4] and Clive Barnes in the New York Post. [5]

His play Perthus premiered in French at the Spoleto Festival in 2008, directed by Gilbert Désveaux starring Alain Marcel, Jean-Paul Muel, and newcomers Jonathan Drillet and Robin Causse. [6]


At the invitation of Ismail Merchant, he wrote in 1996 the original screenplay of The Proprietor a Merchant Ivory Production starring Jeanne Moreau. [7]

Two movies based on his plays have been released in the US: Grande École directed by Robert Salis (2004, based on The Best of Schools) and The Girl on the Train directed by André Téchiné (2009, based on RER) [8]

More recently, Jean-Marie adapted Alan Ayckbourn's Life of Riley, which has been made into a film by Alain Resnais - Aimer, Boire et Chanter (2014). The film received critical praise. It holds a score of 70 on Metacritic.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grand Guignol</span> Theatre in the Pigalle area of Paris

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol – known as the Grand Guignol – was a theatre in the Pigalle district of Paris. From its opening in 1897 until its closing in 1962, it specialised in naturalistic horror shows. Its name is often used as a general term for graphic, amoral horror entertainment, a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, to today's splatter films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Molière</span> French playwright and actor (1622–1673)

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright, actor, and poet, widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the French language and world literature. His extant works include comedies, farces, tragicomedies, comédie-ballets, and more. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed at the Comédie-Française more often than those of any other playwright today. His influence is such that the French language is often referred to as the "language of Molière".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Anouilh</span> French playwright

Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh was a French dramatist whose career spanned five decades. Though his work ranged from high drama to absurdist farce, Anouilh is best known for his 1944 play Antigone, an adaptation of Sophocles' classical drama, that was seen as an attack on Marshal Pétain's Vichy government. His plays are less experimental than those of his contemporaries, having clearly organized plot and eloquent dialogue. One of France's most prolific writers after World War II, much of Anouilh's work deals with themes of maintaining integrity in a world of moral compromise.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Georges Feydeau</span> French writer (1862–1921)

Georges-Léon-Jules-Marie Feydeau was a French playwright of the era known as the Belle Époque. He is remembered for his farces, written between 1886 and 1914.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comédie-Française</span> State theatre in Paris, France

The Comédie-Française or Théâtre-Français is one of the few state theatres in France. Founded in 1680, it is the oldest active theatre company in the world. Established as a French state-controlled entity in 1995, it is the only state theatre in France to have its own permanent troupe of actors. The company's primary venue is the Salle Richelieu, which is a part of the Palais-Royal complex and located at 2, Rue de Richelieu on Place André-Malraux in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">André Téchiné</span> French screenwriter and film director (born 1943)

André Téchiné is a French screenwriter and film director. He has a long and distinguished career that places him among the most accomplished post-New Wave French film directors.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pierre Veber</span> French playwright and writer

Pierre-Eugène Veber was a French playwright and writer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malik Zidi</span> French actor

Malik Zidi is a French film, television and theatre actor. He is a César Award recipient for Most Promising Actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean-Claude Grumberg</span>

Jean-Claude Grumberg is a French playwright and author of children's books.

François Regnault is a French philosopher, playwright and dramaturg. Also a university instructor and teacher, Regnault was maître de conférences at Paris VIII before his retirement. Among his various writings he is the author, with Jean-Claude Milner, of the seminal Dire le vers and of Conférences d'esthétique lacanienne.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Éric Vigner</span>

Éric Vigner is a French stage director, actor and scenic designer. He is directing the CDDB-Théâtre de Lorient, Centre Dramatique National from 1996 to 2015.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ouriel Zohar</span>

Ouriel Zohar, is an Israeli and French theater director, playwright, poet and translator from French to Hebrew. Professor at the Department of Humanities & Arts at the Technion University, created the Technion theater in 1986. Has been full professor at the University of Paris VIII since 1997 and at HEC Paris since 1995.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Théâtre de l'Œuvre</span> Theatre and concert hall in Paris, France

The Théâtre de l'Œuvre is a Paris theatre on the Right Bank, located at 3, Cité Monthiers, entrance 55, rue de Clichy, in the 9° arrondissement. It is commonly conflated and confused with the late-nineteenth-century theater company named Théâtre de l'Œuvre, founded by actor-director-producer Aurélien Lugné-Poe, who would not take control of this performance space until 1919. His company is best known for its earlier phase of existence, before it acquired this theatre venue. From 1893 to 1899, in various Parisian theatres, Lugné-Poe premiered modernist plays by foreign dramatists, as well as new work by French Symbolists, most notoriously Alfred Jarry’s nihilistic farce Ubu Roi, which opened in 1896 at Nouveau-Théâtre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pascal Rambert</span>

Pascal Rambert is a French writer, choreographer, and director for the stage and screen. He was born in 1962.

Théâtre Tristan-Bernard

The théâtre Tristan-Bernard is a private Parisian theatre located at 64 rue du Rocher in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lucien Besnard</span> French playwright

Lucien Besnard was a French playwright and drama critic. He held a doctorate in law and was graduated in Russian from the École des langues orientales.

Claude Pierre Edmond Giraud was a French actor.

Alain Marcel was an Algerian-born French music composer and author. An important figure of musical theatre and musical comedy in the 1980s, he notably adapted the French versions of Little Shop of Horrors, Kiss Me, Kate, and La Cage aux Folles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enzo Cormann</span> French playwright

Enzo Cormann is a French writer, playwright, theater director and composer. He is the author of around forty plays. Until 2019 he worked as a lecturer at several international theater schools. In 2020 he was awarded with the Grand prix du théâtre.

Xavier Le Tourneur d'Ison, popularly known as Xavier Letourneur, is a French filmmaker and actor. One of the most respected artists in France, he has produced more than 5000 artistic works in cinema, theatre and television.


  1. "Veteran Film Stars Brighten a Season Of Theater in Paris - New York Times". The New York Times . 1990-04-15. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  2. "Theater Reviews". The New York Times .
  3. Weber, Bruce (2000-04-04). "THEATER REVIEW; How Base Instincts Can Corrupt Noble Intentions - New York Times". The New York Times . Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  4. Michael Feingold (2000-04-04). "Omission Statements - Page 1 - Theater - New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  5. Clive Barnes (2000-04-09). "'Expect' To Like 'What You Get'". Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  6. Wakin, Daniel J. (2008-06-30). "Spoleto Italy: French Plays, Old and New, in Festival's First Weekend -". Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  7. "The Proprietor".
  8. Dargis, Manohla (2010-01-21). "André Téchiné Explores Mysteries of Other People's Lives -". Retrieved 2012-02-17.