Mask yourself! Large French theater festival underway with steps

Festivals, exhibitions and in-person events are finally back! As the world reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic with an easing of restrictions, the city of Avignon in southern France re-prepared on Monday – with masks of course – for the one of the biggest theater festivals in the world after a one-year hiatus.

Theatergoers and troupes have expressed their excitement at the idea of ​​being reunited for the 75th edition of the Avignon Theater Festival, which rivals Edinburgh for the title of the world’s largest showcase for the performing arts.

“I feel euphoric, like it’s my first festival,” said Olivier Py, festival director, who has been running the event since 2013.

Being deprived of last year’s edition had shown both the public and the artists “how precious it is,” he said.

The festival will open later on Monday with a highly anticipated production by Portuguese director Tiago Rodrigues of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”, starring French film legend Isabelle Huppert and staging at the Palais des Papes, the main venue. of the festival.

Rodrigues, 44, whose work at the Dona Maria II National Theater in Lisbon has made him one of the most sought-after directors in Europe, will take over the management of the festival from its 2023 edition, announced the French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot.

The pandemic still weighs heavily on the three-week theatrical extravagance.

A South African dance performance by famous choreographer Dada Masilo was pulled from the program the day before opening night after members of the troupe tested positive for coronavirus or were contact cases.

Avignon, a picturesque walled city that was the seat of the Catholic popes in the 14th century, has implemented several measures to try to prevent the festival from becoming a giant cluster.

Wearing a mask will be compulsory both outside and inside, throughout the duration of the festival.

And, the places will be ventilated for 40 minutes between each performance.

Spectators will not need to show proof of vaccination or clean COVID-19 tests to be able to seat, except for performances at the Palais des Papes.

The festival’s outlook improved further on June 30 when the government lifted capacity limits on most public spaces, meaning venues were allowed to sell all of their remaining seats.

For Py, the move, which sparked a ticket scramble, meant a true “renaissance” for the festival, which has 50 productions in 21 venues, as well as hundreds of other shows in the even bigger fringe “Avignon. Off “. Festival.

The fate of this year’s edition of the Off Festival had at one time been uncertain.

With the green light only arriving in May, this year’s Off offer of street and stage theater, mime, dance and song amounts to just over 1,000 shows, compared to nearly from 1,500 in previous years.

“We don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” admitted Sébastien Benedetto, boss of the association that manages the Off festival, in a pun to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He cited the spread of the highly contagious delta variant in France as a threat to the festival.

“But we are happy to be back in Avignon, where everyone from French theater meets,” he said.

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