a must-have expensive showcase for theater companies

a must-have expensive showcase for theater companies

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“You’ll see, it’s 70 minutes of guaranteed humor. Come, it’s at 1 p.m., the theater is a stone’s throw away.” A mixture of banter and good nature, he has a charming smile and the enthusiasm of the first times. Marc Larebière is however far from being a beginner. “My first Avignon was in 1987, he says. I was an actor.” This time, the one who is also the director of a café-théâtre in Annecy (Les Têtes de l’Art), is launching into production. He chose to accompany De Gaulle is back, a family comedy that brings the General back to life and plunges him into the modern world. A mixture of humor and historical references which earned the play the support of the Charles de Gaulle Foundation.

De Gaulle is back with Matthieu Kalka and Valentin Maerte (KOBAYASHI)

And it is in the street that the public is won over. The show may have been played 700 times since its creation in 2016, in Avignon, it is necessary to start all over again and to regain its place among the 1570 shows offered this year. Fierce competition that forces spectators to be seduced one by one, leaflets in hand and advertising t-shirts on their backs. But what has stung Marc Larebière for him to venture into such a project? “It’s to stay young”he admits bluntly.

Marc Larebière conquering spectators in the streets of Avignon (Ariane Combes)

It is also a story of friendship. With the two actors and authors of the play, first: Matthieu Kalka and Valentin Maerte, met during a performance in Annecy. Also with Romain Bailloud, an amateur actor passionate about café-théâtre who invested 15,000 euros to finance the project. The bulk of the expenditure is concentrated on renting the theater. “It’s simple, calculates the patron, it takes 100 euros per chair. For a room with 100 seats, that’s a budget of 10,000 euros, to which must be added the accommodation and the fees of the actors. He does not intend to recover his expenses at the end of the festival but within one or two years if the show is “signed” by programmers.

The two actors of De Gaulle is back expect 40 to 50 spectators per performance. Objective reached on the fourth day after a modest start (20 tickets per day) and some cold sweats. “Some cultural centers only make their selection in Avignon, we had to be there”testifies Matthieu Kalka. “Avignon is as much a dream machine as a crusher of companies”, adds, lucid, the actor who relies heavily on press feedback and word of mouth to fill the room. This is also how the piece found its audience at the start.

Crossed in the rue Caretterie in the middle of a towing session, Loïc Bartolini for his part devotes a budget of 25,000 euros to present his play Freelance photographer at the Theater des Brunes. An investment on its own funds. For his single-on-stage, which looks like a travel diary, he hired a stage manager, a broadcast manager and a person for general logistics. After eight participations in the Off with three different shows, he now knows what awaits him.

In 2019, I had 7000 euros of loss. This year again, I know that I will not cover my costs with the box office, but for me what counts is meeting broadcasters and programmers and selling them my show. If I manage to sign 15 dates for the next season, it will be a great tour.

Loïc Bartolini

actor and director

If Loïc Bartolini’s company has enough solid backs, this is not the case for many other structures which, for lack of spectators in the first days, find themselves over-indebted and forced to leave the festival before the end. “Legend says that a quarter of companies give up along the way”testifies the actress Paméla Blottière whose company La Limprost presents for the second time in Avignon Everything turned around, a musical tale for children, at the Carnot theatre. The direction of the association Avignon Festival & Compagnies (AF & C) does not confirm this figure, but it is a fact, some companies leave their shirt there.

Everything turn-balled from the company la Limprost (Cie la Limprost)

Last year La Limprost had the chance to benefit from public subsidies from Sacem, Spedidam and the city of Le Mans where it is from. €12,000 in total. But in 2021 the programmers had already completed the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 seasons due to Covid-related postponements, so it is this year that she hopes to sign dates. Small capacity (49 seats), in a small theatre, at a less requested time (11:30 a.m.), accommodation for the troupe outside Avignon: everything has been done to limit expenses and avoid going out of business. That the dream does not turn into a nightmare.

“De Gaulle is back”, by Mattieu Kalka and Valentin Maerte, at La Comédie d’Avignon (40 rue des Lices, Avignon). Until July 30, at 1 p.m. No class on July 11, 18 and 25.

“Freedom Photographer”, by Loïc Bartolini, at the Théâtre des Brunes (32 rue Thiers, in Avignon). Until July 30, at 12:55 p.m. No class on July 12, 19 and 26.

“Tout tourne-boulé”, by the company La Limprost, at the Carnot theater (16 rue Carnot, in Avignon). Until July 30 at 11:30 a.m. No class on July 11, 18 and 25.

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