Jean Vilar

Definition

Theater

  • (1912 - 71) French theater director and actor, noted forhis attempts to make the theater accessible to provincial and working-classaudiences. After training as a stage manager under Charles Dullin,Vilar began to direct in Paris with a small travelling company calledLa Roulette. In 1945 he staged a memorable production of T. S. Eliot'sMurder in the Cathedral at the Vieux-Colombiers, in which healso starred; this aroused considerable interest, especially whenit was subsequently staged in the open in front of the Abbey de Bec-Hellouin.The production undoubtedly contributed to Vilar being asked to organizean open-air drama festival at Avignon in 1947; he would remain closelyassociated with the Avignon Festival for over 20 years.

    His efforts to open up the theater to all classes were rewardedin 1951, when Vilar was appointed head of the revived Th√©√ĘtreNational Populaire, based at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.He managed the TNP for over a decade, during which time he also returnedannually to Avignon; his productions of classical and contemporaryplays were equally admired. In 1962 he resigned from the TNP becausefunding was not sufficient to allow for expansion. Vilar continuedto stage productions at Avignon until 1968, when he undeservedly becamethe target for left-wing demonstrators.

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