The observation of an overproduction of shows in France is not recent. According to the National Syndicate of the Public Stage, a show in a national drama center or on a national stage was performed on average between 2 and 2.5 times in 2016. These numbers probably have not improved today, with the bottling of the productions. following the health crisis.
However, in a context of energy costs and skyrocketing inflation, shouldn’t art production be curtailed and performances left on longer? A solution that the sector has no intention of defending. “It should never be said that there are too many shows, too many artists”, affected Frédéric Hocquard, president of the National Federation of Communities for Culture.
Calls for art projects every year
The French system encourages the making of shows. “If a structure contracted with the regional directorate of cultural affairs does not create creations, its subsidies will decrease. The intermittence system also favors production ”, observes the president.
Indeed, of the 507 hours an artist has to work to benefit from this regime, 437 must come from a purely artistic activity. The training, the provision of artistic and cultural education courses are limited to 70 hours.
Vincent Roche Lecca, director of the Bourg-en-Bresse theater (40,900 inhabitants, Ain), which has been on the national scene since April, points to another problem. “On which the financing software of the artistic activity is based calls for projects. This pushes artists to release new projects every year. However, it would be more virtuous to invent levers to follow them in the long run, especially since a show needs time to find its cruising speed. We need a public response on how to support the dissemination of works longer, ”said the director.
In Montreuil (111,000 inhabitants), where the city finances the national theater center with 700,000 euros, we reject any idea of a decline in shows. “I think it is dangerous to look at culture only from the financial aspect. It is a dangerous drift to take advantage of the crises to say that there are too many productions, too many artists ”, says Alexie Lorca, deputy mayor (PCF), delegate for culture and popular education.
The elected official has not yet started thinking with the theater teams about how to deal with the crisis. “We are starting to turn down the heat, but will we close during the school holidays? Certainly the programming in this period is suspended, but the theater still welcomes companies that rehearse ”, he explains.
In Toulouse (493,400 inhabitants), the director of the Théâtre de la Cité, Galin Stoev, is already faced with the need to reduce the number of shows for the season: they have to drop to 25, compared to 37 of 42 usually. “It saddens me a lot,” he admits.
And to develop: “We depend on the ticket office. If we leave a show longer, how can we be sure that our 888-seat grand hall is adequately filled? I think this will have an impact on our choice. We are becoming more cautious in terms of artistic proposals. The risk is to favor the headliners, to behave like a private theater, while the subsidized culture has other missions. We could turn to the classical texts, to the plays of Molière, which fill the halls, to the detriment of contemporary authors. There will be a return to conservatism. “
“One of the solutions would be to harmonize tour times”
Federico Maurizio, President of the National Union of Public Scenes
“Overproduction exists, but extending the shows, which could be an answer in big cities, is not feasible in countries of 15,000 inhabitants like mine, Vendôme. One of the solutions would be to harmonize the tours, to stop with dates scattered throughout France. For this, a strong coordination of programmers by area of cultural development is necessary. This exists in the Pays de la Loire, in southern Occitania, but this movement must be amplified in the face of the budgetary, social and environmental emergency.
I appeal to communities not to close theaters unilaterally. We look for solutions. I have colleagues who already buy the plaids. I am convinced that exchange and dialogue make it possible to find answers, even in times of crisis. “