The puppetry art stage was ordained by a new label

A real recognition given by the Ministry of Culture to the art of puppetry. Welcomed enthusiastically by those concerned, the label “Centre national de la marionnette” (CNMa) recognizes the extraordinary development of this art and its place, rightfully and unquestionably, among the performing arts supported by the State. Equipped with suitable equipment, and in particular with production workshops near the filming locations, CNMa expanded its network network to the four corners of the national territory already well established from generations of great artistic personalities such as Philippe Genty, Émilie Valentin, Jean-Pierre Lescot, followed by many others, and in the vicinity of Charleville-Mézières, the National Puppet School and its world festivals.

As of September 2022, six theaters, spread across the region, are labeled Center national de la marionnette. In the medium term, about ten structures will benefit from this label. Our look at three of them, through their history and specifics: Acres in Vendôme, Espace Jéliote in Oloron Sainte-Marie, and Mouffetard in Paris.

Centre-Val-de-Loire: The key to cultural development in rural areas

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At the end of the last century, at the turn of his career as an actor, Frédéric Maurin met the puppeteer Roland Shön, who entrusted his interpretation of the show to him, Dibouji’s Treasure, which he would play more than 1200 times worldwide. It was like love at first sight, he told us, which would lead him, later, in 2004, to L’Hectare, in Vendôme (Loir-et-Cher): ” The doll hides a poetic power that surpasses all that can be imagined. Inert forms (statues, objects, indeterminate forms), when they come to life, give off an extraordinary mystery, which fascinates me: the mystery, renewed at every moment, of this unspeakable moment when life rises, hangs death. So the question of meaning also arises. »

This aesthetic dynamic would have no effect if wayang art was not also, from its origins, popular art. ” Art impudent and impudent in relation to the powerful and rich, puppetry has become, in the XX century, a complete art, close to opera: popular public, contemporary creation, interdisciplinary (writing and dramaturgy , scenography and visual arts, musical creation). »

From this emerges a third characteristic, and one that is no less important: the art of puppetry is a powerful tool for cultural development. ” In our region of the Center Val de Loire, a large rural area with 65 municipalities (55,000 in total) centered on the city of Vendôme (16,000 inhabitants), we assumed, twenty years ago, to start with a very open family form (“puppet show tonight at 7pm at village hall!”). Our bet – it works – is to accompany the population, year after year, by frequently making them contemporary art, without them really knowing it. Today, the public is not intimidated by puppet theater, shadows or objects with high artistic demands and sharp, contemporary dramaturgical goals, such as, for example, questions about gender, about refugees, about the environment. And thanks to the agreement signed with L’Echalier, l’Hectare developed residences for artistic teams in rural areas, and thus always as close to their inhabitants as possible.

Labels are also a sign of recognition whose effects are not long lasting: ” Eight years ago, I called the Maisons de la Culture, the National Drama Center, and the National Stage to offer those who failed to participate in a puppet festival. Today, they all come to our biennial, which will take place in January and February 2023 in Vendôme and throughout the Centre-Val de Loire region. »

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Nouvelle Aquitaine: “Multi-partner” work, local, regional and international influence

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I have realized how creative this art can be, explains Jackie Challa, a former theater-loving literature teacher, now director of Espace Jéliote, at Haut Béarn. Very innovative in its form, in its theme, in its use of space, in its variety of scales… Animation places the question of life and death at the center of this art. Manipulation brings questions of power into it. And there is an aesthetic dimension, which gives pride of place to fine arts. In short, it is clear that this art is not a minor art. It must be supported, so that it can take its rightful place on all national stages. »

The Jéliote programming inflection project is launched. ” We have to make our public aware of the special codes of this art, and also of the theater of objects. We have prepared the month of November dedicated to dolls. We have come to find very varied forms of the new creation. ” In 2010, Space received the approved Scene label, ” which gives us some means of production. We decided to support two artists for three or four seasons. New follow-ups for some (Angélique Friant, Pier Porcheron, Fanny Bérard, etc.), such as Elise Vigneron, whom we have followed since leaving school in Charleville-Mézières. »

Great success that would not have been possible without the collective spirit: ” We have worked in partnership for more than 20 years with the Haut-Béarn commune community, departmental, regional and State councils.said Jackie Challa. With labels, everyone does more. Thus we can increase our workforce, in the need for which we have human resources consistent with our projects. »

Espace Jéliote is in the middle of the large rural area where the show is staged. But this local cobweb transcends territory: it is also national and transboundary: Bayonne, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Zaragoza. ” As part of our international support mission, for example, we are leading a creation and EAC project with Juan Perez Escala, an artist from Argentina, and the Tolosa International Puppet Center, 200 km from home, in the Spanish Basque country. »

On the training side, the label allows us to be identified by regional conservatories. We will soon sign a framework agreement with Pau and Bayonne. There’s still support for production, which I think we should build on, because too many artists have great projects they can’t finish… »

Juan Perez Escala 1 (c) Vincent Lataillade

Ile-de-France: An atypical national center in the heart of Paris

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Le Mouffetard was originally a group of passionate puppeteers who created the Week of the Puppets in Paris in the 1980s. In 1992, the week, under the direction of Lucile Bodson, was turned into a season, meaning it became a permanent theater… but without a venue. One of the challenges was, for puppeteers, playing in Paris in order to be close to the region’s press, programmers and assemblage of residents. To meet this permanent challenge, Lucile Bodson then Isabelle Bertola, the current director, set the program for each season, in partnership with the Paris public theatres.

It will have to wait until 2013 for the City of Paris to offer puppeteers the Mouffetard theater space. ” Nomadism has allowed us to forge a solid and warm partnership networkexplained Isabelle Bertola, which moreover we always activate, to receive performances on big stages. This long nomadism also explains why we are not a multidisciplinary space, unlike all other CNMas, and for good reason: multidisciplinary, we bring that to our partners.

In spite of everything, these nomads have these limitations: we remain virtually invisible, except from a narrow circle of amateurs. And our program can hardly include young emerging artists. At Mouffetard, we closely monitor these emergences, by keeping up with school promotions, and by including in our program, in even years, the Scènes Ouvertes à l’Insolite festival, dedicated to them. With certain artists meeting thanks to festivals, we go a step further by committing, by buying in advance, to their new creations, allowing them to find other supports.

In addition, on odd years, our International Biennial of Puppetry Arts awards international reference artists. For the workshop and training aspects, which are other important elements of our development, which are listed in the label specifications, we are here again partnering. Théâtre aux mains nues gave us access to his workshop and we gave him access to our stage. Our training offer is general. Théâtre aux mains nues is also a festival collaborator dedicated to emerging artists. »

Here, institutional recognition also comes to pay homage to the treasure trove of ingenuity, patience, and courage that the Mouffetard team has mustered up over the past thirty years. In the near future, he should find a more suitable site, one that would allow him to register his platform, his workshop and his resource center on the same site. It will have a stage of adequate dimensions for all artistic forms. He would find space there for his own office (this has yet to happen!), for an artist’s home, to host more creative residencies and to be more involved in production and education, arts and culture. The beautiful development it deserves, of Paris and the region!

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