VIEUX COLOMBIER IN AMERICA (1917-1919). EXPECTATIONS AND REALITY
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A prominent Slovak theatrical theoretician and critic publishes a chapter from the prepared monograph on the French director Jacques Copeau. The theatre 'Old Dovecot' (Vieux-Colombier) led by Jacques Copeau had a very successful season in 1913/1914. It brought a new approach to the histrionic art. Shortly before the summer 1914 Jacques Copeau parted with his audience promising to open the theatre again in autumn, with a further development with regard to the programme renewal. But the World War I started. Jacques Copeau and other actors were recruited and the theatre Old Dovecot was closed. Then the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau personally suggested to Copeau to make a tour to the United States of America. Jacques Copeau accepted his offer. He left to America in January 1917. He took with him the lectures on his theatrical intentions, which he had planned to offer overseas. By the end of 1917 maecenas Otto H.Kahn, a Francophile, suggested to Copeau the same thing what had done before him Georges Clemenceau – to transfer the whole 'Vieux Colombier' to the USA. The introductory performance of the American era of the 'Vieux Colombier' theatre took place on 27th November 1917. The first part with a name derived from the Molier's play 'Versailles' improvisation', was a small celebration to open the 'Vieux Colombier' in the USA. The 'Vieux Colombier' continued in the first season by the opening night 'Twelfth Night' and by renewing 'The Brothers Karamazov'. The character of Smerdyakov was played by François Gournac, to whom it was a lifetime opportunity. Never before he had got so much appreciation like then. But not just him, also other actors showed to the American audience this philosophical, realistic and elaborated picture of the period produced by a great Russian author. Not often the audience could see such a mature connection between a master in literature and a well balanced troupe. The 'Vieux Colombier' was very different from Broadway - where two or three stars were surrounded just by average or even below standard quality actors. The French actors were acting with enthusiasm, collectively, and often exceeding their possibilities. They were aware of the fact that it was more than just a theatre - they represented a cultural and moral institution. The 'Vieux Colombier' mission in the USA was concluded on 7th April 1919 by the final performance 'Miracle Goblet' by La Fontaine, followed by 'Farewell Improvisation', where the troupe members together with Copeau summarized the basic data on what had been done within the period of two years.
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