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Presenter Interview
The Avignon Festival rebornTalking about subjects like the Festival's new Associate Artist program
Mr. Vincent Baudriller
Mr. Vincent Baudriller
Mr. Vincent Baudriller
You both worked under the Avignon Festival director Bernard Faivre d'Arcier until 2003 and then took over the directorship after he left. Can you tell us about the events leading up to this change?
Baudriller: Faivre d'Arcier served as director of the Avignon Festival for two terms and during that tenure he helped make it an even more professional and international festival. As you surely know, he organized an excellent Japanese-centered program in 1994. But, the Minister of Culture (at the time Jean-Jacque Ayagon) decided not to renew his tenure. After that, we drew up a proposal for continuing the management of the Festival and suggestions for new directions for the future.
The Avignon Festival is run by a non-profit association and its administrative committee has the power to choose the succeeding directors. Representatives of the government (Ministry of Culture), and the festival’s other supporting bodies on the regional, provincial and municipal level sit on this committee (among which the voice of the Ministry and the Avignon municipal government are especially strong). We made our presentation before this committee and were chosen to succeed as directors.

What do you feel you have inherited from Faivre d'Arcier? And is there anything you will be doing differently from the course followed under his direction?
Baudriller: In the sense that we will make our festival one dedicated to new creation and aimed at a diverse audience, I think our work will continue to be an extension of the Avignon Festival’s long tradition. But, one important thing that will be different is that we will not continue the policy of focusing on a different country with each festival. Instead our programs will center on our chosen Associate Artists. Many of the artists we invited in 2004 are ones who have also performed or directed at Avignon in the past. So, in this sense it is clear that we have not made any drastic changes in the nature of the festival. Since its founding by Jean Vilar in 1947, The Avignon Festival has a 57-year history. I believe it is our responsibility to make sure that this tradition continues long into the future

Archambault: We have also strengthened our support program for organizing tours of the productions that have debuted at our festival. There are no productions that the Festival produces alone. Although the types of involvement may be different, all the works performed at the Festival are joint productions of some form. We have established a department in our organization that is in charge of tour coordination for the productions after the Festival.

Avignon has a 57-year tradition and is one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world. Don’t you feel some amount of pressure having been appointed to direct this festival at such a young age?
Baudriller: Jean Vilar was 35 years old when he founded the Avignon Festival. Fevel Darchier was also 35 when he was first appointed director of the Festival. So, I guess we are just the right age (laughs) (Baudriller was 36 and Archambault 34 at the time of this interview).
Youth can be a strength. The performing arts are living arts, and I believe that in this sense they are arts of youth. We want the Avignon Festival to be even more open to being a festival of today’s artists performing with today’s modes of expression to today’s audience.

One of the complaints heard in recent years is that the Festival’s tickets are too expensive (23 ~33 euro for general tickets to main productions). Although the prices are much less than in Japan, for a person like me who saw over 20 works during the course of a week at the 2004 festival, you have to be prepared to pay a considerable price for that privilege. The lack of lodging facilities and difficulty of getting reservations are also limitations that prevent the gathering of larger audiences, aren’t they?
Archambault: Of course we are aware of these problems of accessibility. We make efforts to help make the stays of people coming to the Festival as inexpensive as possible. Almost since the Festival began, we have gotten public facilities like schools to make lodging space available to young people coming to the Festival, and we are lobbying the city of Avignon to make even more lodging available. As for the price of the tickets, we have support that helps us keep the prices fairly inexpensive. However, it is true that you will be paying quite a sum if you try to see as many productions as possible during a whole week (laughs).

Baudriller: Still, when you consider the cost that goes into the productions, I think the ticket prices are cheap. If you go to the Aix-en-Provence music festival you will find that the tickets there are several times more expensive. Also, as a new measure started in 2004, we set quite inexpensive student and youth discounts on tickets. Thanks to this we sold a lot more tickets. It hurt us in terms of revenue, but the increase in number of tickets sold is good news for the future of our project. We also noticed a considerable increase in the number of young people in the theater audiences. I think it is another strength of the Avignon Festival that you can see people from three, or even four generations in the same theater audience, including people who have continued coming since the very first Festival in 1947 to young people coming for the first time.

Archambault: We have worked set a youth and student discount price of 12 euro and also made several productions free or with a minimal charge of 5 euro. If you asked us to do more, I think we have already reached the economic limits (laughs).
 
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