|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?
||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
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?
||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
||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?
||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
||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).
||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.
||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