Théâtre Libre

Last updated

The Théâtre Libre (French for "Free Theatre") was a theatre company that operated from 1887 to 1896 in Paris, France.

Contents

Plaque dedicated to the Theatre Libre, its actor-director Andre Antoine, and its performers in Montmartre, Paris. Theatre Libre plaque Andre Antoine.jpg
Plaque dedicated to the Théâtre Libre, its actor-director André Antoine, and its performers in Montmartre, Paris.

Origins and History

Théâtre Libre was founded on 30 March 1887 by André Antoine. The primary goal of the theatre was to present new plays that were untried and unproduced by the commercial houses. [1] Antoine was driven to open his own theatre company to create a dramatization of an Émile Zola novel, Thérèse Raquin after the theater group for which he previously worked had refused. [2] In order to ensure that the Théâtre Libre was exempt from censorship and could produce plays that other theaters would not, the theatre was supported solely by subscribers. This allowed the Théâtre Libre to collect no money at the door meaning it was not legally considered a theatre. [3] Being a "free" theatre, in the case of Théâtre Libre, meant being a theatre that presented naturalism and was dedicated to producing plays in any and all genres that had not been produced before and often were considered too much of a risk to stage. [3]

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Hairdresser - Program for the Theatre-Libre, 1893 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Hairdresser - Program for the Theatre-Libre (Le coiffeur - Programme du Theatre-Libre), 1893, NGA 42052.jpg
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Hairdresser - Program for the Theatre-Libre, 1893

Playbills and posters were created by leading artists of the day with an un-glamorized, gritty realism that reflected the spirit of the theatre and its repertoire. Among the artists that produced the most memorable works for its plays were Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Édouard Vuillard, Paul Signac, George Auriol, Adolphe Willette, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. [4]

First Performance: Le Grappin, l'Affranchie, for Le Theatre Libre, 1892-93 Theatre Libre saison 1.jpg
First Performance: Le Grappin, l'Affranchie, for Le Théatre Libre, 1892–93

There are three chapters of the Théâtre Libre's life. This first is its opening with the first two programs in the spring of 1887 and the full season that followed. [5] Antoine quit his job at the gas company to pursue establishing the Théâtre Libre full-time. [2] The second is from October 1888 to June 1893. During this time, the Théâtre Libre established itself as a prominent theatre company whose subscriptions were robust, produced many plays to general critical acclaim, and was sought out to produce new work. It was during these years that the Théâtre Libre saw some of its work transferring to prominent commercial theatres in Paris such as the Odéon and the Comédie-Française. [5] The theatre's final chapter is marked from November 1893 to its close in 1896. During this time it was evident that the experimental days of the theatre had passed as the style and works produced by the Théâtre Libre were now commercially acceptable and sought after. [5] Due to the amount of debt acquired both on behalf of the theatre and personally, Antoine turned the Théâtre Libre over to Larochelle, a son of an older director/actor who had been eager to join management, for the final two years of the theatre's operation. [5] The last performance at Théâtre Libre was on April 27, 1896. [2]

The theatre presented more than 111 plays by more than 50 playwrights during its existence. [3] Each production produced at Théâtre Libre was only given three performances: one dress rehearsal, one opening night performance for invited guests, and one performance for subscribers. [6] However, despite its achievements, the theater had major financial problems. The deep debt coupled with the idea that the Théâtre Libre was no longer needed, as it had proved that a new form of theatre could be acceptable and commercial was being produced, the theatre failed and closed its doors. [5]

Notable Works/Controversial Productions

The theater concerned itself with producing work that was considered too risky to stage by more well-known theaters, sometimes even works that had been banned in Europe, such as Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts. [3] The theater performed one foreign work per year and it staged only three performances of any production, either a foreign or domestic work. [7]

Influence

The Théâtre Libre combined Realism with Naturalism, and emphasized ensemble acting. André Antoine, its primary director, became known as the father of Naturalistic Staging. He sought to make every play as real as possible, such as when real beef carcasses were used on stage. Many sets were erected with four standing walls for rehearsals, then Antoine would decide which wall to remove for the audience to see when plays began their run. He also replaced footlights with more naturalistic lighting. Antoine believed each play should have its own unique environment. [1]

The Théâtre Libre was the first of its kind and inspired the opening many theatres, including the Freie Bühne , (Free Stage), in Berlin that opened in 1889 as well as the Independent Theatre Society in London that opened in 1891. [1] Out of these two theatres grew Freie Volksbühne, (Free People's Stage), and the Stage Society in 1899 and the Abbey Theatre at Dublin in 1901. [1]

The influence in staging in realism and naturalism can of the Théâtre Libre can be seen in the Moscow Art Theatre which was founded in 1898 by Constantine Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchecko and still operates today. [1]

Related Research Articles

August Strindberg Swedish novelist, poet

Johan August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and painter. A prolific writer who often drew directly on his personal experience, Strindberg's career spanned four decades, during which time he wrote over sixty plays and more than thirty works of fiction, autobiography, history, cultural analysis, and politics. A bold experimenter and iconoclast throughout, he explored a wide range of dramatic methods and purposes, from naturalistic tragedy, monodrama, and history plays, to his anticipations of expressionist and surrealist dramatic techniques. From his earliest work, Strindberg developed innovative forms of dramatic action, language, and visual composition. He is considered the "father" of modern Swedish literature and his The Red Room (1879) has frequently been described as the first modern Swedish novel.

Naturalism is a literary movement beginning in the late nineteenth century, similar to literary realism in its rejection of Romanticism, but distinct in its embrace of determinism, detachment, scientific objectivism, and social commentary. The movement largely traces to the theories of French author Émile Zola.

<i>The Power of Darkness</i> literary work

The Power of Darkness is a five-act drama by Leo Tolstoy. Written in 1886, the play's production was forbidden in Russia until 1902, mainly through the influence of Konstantin Pobedonostsev. In spite of the ban, the play was unofficially produced and read numerous times.

<i>Ghosts</i> (play) Play written by H. Ibsen

Ghosts is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1881 and first staged in 1882 in Chicago, Illinois, in a production by a Danish company on tour. Like many of Ibsen's plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th-century morality. Because of its subject matter, which includes religion, venereal disease, incest, and euthanasia, it immediately generated strong controversy and negative criticism. Since then the play has fared better, and is considered a “great play” that historically holds a position of “immense importance”. Theater critic Maurice Valency wrote in 1963, "From the standpoint of modern tragedy Ghosts strikes off in a new direction.... Regular tragedy dealt mainly with the unhappy consequences of breaking the moral code. Ghosts, on the contrary, deals with the consequences of not breaking it."

Lugné-Poe actor and director

Aurélien-Marie Lugné, known by his stage-name and pen name Lugné-Poe, was a French actor, theatre director, and scenic designer best known for his work at the Théâtre de l'Œuvre, one of the first theatrical venues in France to provide a home for the artists of the symbolist movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Most notably, Lugné-Poe introduced French audiences to the Scandinavian playwrights August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.

André Antoine French actor (1858–1943)

André Antoine was a French actor, theatre manager, film director, author, and critic who is considered the father of modern mise en scène in France.

<i>Miss Julie</i> play written by A. Strindberg

Miss Julie is a naturalistic play written in 1888 by August Strindberg. It is set on Midsummer's Eve and the following morning, which is Midsummer and the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist. The setting is an estate of a count in Sweden. Miss Julie is drawn to a senior servant, a valet named Jean, who is well-traveled and well-read. The action takes place in the kitchen of Miss Julie's father's manor, where Jean's fiancée, a servant named Christine, cooks and sometimes sleeps while Jean and Miss Julie talk.

Otto Brahm German theatre director

Otto Brahm was a German drama and literary critic, theatre manager and director. His productions were noted for being accurate and realistic. He was involved in the foundation of the progressive Die Freie Bühne company, of which he became president and producer. He also edited the company's weekly magazine of the same name, but later changed its name to Die neue Rundschau.

Moscow Art Theatre theatre company

The Moscow Art Theatre is a theatre company in Moscow. It was founded in 1898 by the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas that were Russia's dominant form of theatre at the time. The theatre, the first to regularly put on shows implementing Stanislavski's system, proved hugely influential in the acting world and in the development of modern American theatre and drama.

Nineteenth-century theatre

Nineteenth-century theatre describes a wide range of movements in the theatrical culture of Europe and the United States in the 19th century. In the West, they include Romanticism, melodrama, the well-made plays of Scribe and Sardou, the farces of Feydeau, the problem plays of Naturalism and Realism, Wagner's operatic Gesamtkunstwerk, Gilbert and Sullivan's plays and operas, Wilde's drawing-room comedies, Symbolism, and proto-Expressionism in the late works of August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.

Twentieth-century theatre describes a period of great change within the theatrical culture of the 20th century, mainly in Europe and North America. There was a widespread challenge to long-established rules surrounding theatrical representation; resulting in the development of many new forms of theatre, including modernism, Expressionism, Impressionism, political theatre and other forms of Experimental theatre, as well as the continuing development of already established theatrical forms like naturalism and realism.

Literary realism is part of the realist art movement beginning with mid-nineteenth-century French literature (Stendhal), and Russian literature and extending to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Literary realism attempts to represent familiar things as they are. Realist authors chose to depict everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of using a romanticized or similarly stylized presentation.

Realism (theatre) movement in 19th-century theatre

Realism in the theatre was a general movement that began in the 19th-century theatre, around the 1870s, and remained present through much of the 20th century. It developed a set of dramatic and theatrical conventions with the aim of bringing a greater fidelity of real life to texts and performances. These conventions occur in the text, design, performance style, and narrative structure. They include recreating on stage a facsimile of real life except missing a fourth wall. Characters speak in naturalistic, authentic dialogue without verse or poetic stylings, and acting is meant to emulate human behaviour in real life. Narratives typically are psychologically driven, and include day-to-day, ordinary scenarios. Narrative action moves forward in time, and supernatural presences do not occur. Sound and music are diagetic only. Part of a broader artistic movement, it includes Naturalism and Socialist realism.

As the new medium of cinema was beginning to replace theatre as a source of large-scale spectacle, the Little Theatre Movement developed in the United States around 1912. The Little Theatre Movement served to provide experimental centers for the dramatic arts, free from the standard production mechanisms used in prominent commercial theatres. In several large cities, beginning with Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and Detroit, companies formed to produce more intimate, non-commercial, non-profit-centered, and reform-minded entertainments.

<i>The Father</i> (Strindberg play) naturalistic tragedy written by August Strindberg

The Father is a naturalistic tragedy by Swedish playwright August Strindberg, written in 1887.

Naturalism (theatre) movement in European drama and theatre

Naturalism is a movement in European drama and theatre that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to theatre that attempts to create an illusion of reality through a range of dramatic and theatrical strategies. Interest in naturalism especially flourished with the French playwrights of the time, but the most successful example is Strindberg's play Miss Julie, which was written with the intention to abide by both his own particular version of naturalism, and also the version described by the French novelist and literary theoretician, Émile Zola.

The Independent Theatre Society was a by-subscription-only organisation in London from 1891 to 1897, founded by Dutch drama critic Jacob Grein to give "special performances of plays which have a literary and artistic rather than a commercial value." The society was inspired by its continental forerunners, the Théâtre-Libre and Die Freie Bühne. The Society produced modern realist plays, mostly by continental European playwrights, on the London stage.

Creditors is a naturalistic tragicomedy by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg. It was written in Swedish during August and September 1888 in Denmark. It was first published in Danish in February 1889 and appeared in Swedish in 1890. It premiered at the Dagmar Theatre in Copenhagen in March 1889. It is seen as one of Strindberg's most powerful plays. Strindberg himself, writing in 1892, described it as his "most mature work."

Théâtre Antoine-Simone Berriau theatre in Paris

Théâtre Antoine-Simone Berriau is a theater located at 14 boulevard de Strasbourg in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.

Die Freie Bühne was a subscription-based theatre club founded in Berlin in 1889 by 10 writers and theatre critics supervised by Otto Brahm for the purpose of staging new, naturalistic plays that were censored, not commercially viable, or not otherwise commonly produced. The 10 founding members were Otto Brahm, Maximilian Harden, Theodor Wolff, Julius Hart and Heinrich Hart, Paul Schlenther, Julius Elias, Julius Stettenheim, Paul Jonas and Samuel Fischer. Inspired in part by André Antoine's Théâtre-Libre in Paris, Brahm's company gave private performances to subscribers only. Performances were held on Sunday afternoons. The Freie Bühne opened with a production of Ibsen's "Ghosts" (1881), in September 1889. Later productions included works by writers such as Gerhardt Hauptmann, Arno Holz, Émile Zola, August Strindberg, as well as dramatic adaptations of Tolstoy. The Freie Bühne closed in 1894, mostly due to the fact that larger, commercial theaters in Berlin had by then begun to embrace the new theatrical styles that the Freie Bühne had championed. Together with the Théâtre-Libre in Paris and the Independent Theatre Society in London, the Freie Bühne inspired a number of smaller, subscription-based theatres, known collectively as the Independent Theatre Movement.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Mowry Roberts, Vera (1974). On Stage: a history of theatre second edition. New York: Harper & Row. pp. 388–416. ISBN   0-06-045499-7.
  2. 1 2 3 Antoine, André (1964). Memories of The Théâtre Libre . Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Braun, Edward (1982). The Director and the Stage . New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers. pp.  22-36. ISBN   0-8419-0800-1.
  4. Waxman, Samuel Montefiore (1926). Antoine and the Théâtre-Libre. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Miller, Anna Irene (1931). The Independent Theatre in Europe: 1887 to the Present. New York: Ray Long & Richard R. Smith, Inc. pp. 12–96.
  6. Knapp, Bettina L. (1988). The Reign of the Theatrical Director: French Theatre 1887-1924. Troy, New York: The Whitston Publishing Company. pp. 17–62. ISBN   0-87875-358-3.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Valency, Maurice (1963). The Flower and the Castle: An Introduction to Modern Drama . New York: The Macmillan Company. pp.  108–111.