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Planchon, Roger 1931–

PERSONAL: Born September 12, 1931, in Saint-Chamond, France; son of Emile and Augusta (Nogier) Planchon; married Colette Dompietrini, 1958; children: Stéphane, Frédéric (sons). Education: Attended Collège des Frères des écoles chrétiennes.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Plon, 76 rue Bonaparte, Paris 75006, France.

CAREER: Director and playwright. Worked as a bank clerk, 1947–49. Théâtre de la Comédie, Lyon, France, founder, 1951; Théâtre de la Cité (renamed Théâtre National Populaire), Villeurbain, France, codirector, 1957–72, director, 1972–95; Fondation Molière, president, 1987—European Cinematographic Center, founder, 1990. Director of plays, including: Les chemins clos, 1949; Bottines et collets montés, 1950; La nuit des rois, 1951; Les joyeuses comméras de Windsor, 1951; Claire, 1952; La vie est un songe, 1952; Rocambole, 1953; La balade du grand macabre, 1953; Le sens de la marche, 1953; Le professeur Taranne, 1953; Burlesque-digest, 1953; Liliom, 1953; (and writer) Cartouche, 1953; La cruche cassée, 1954; Edward II, 1954; La bonne ame de Sé-Tchouan, 1954; Casque d'or, 1954; La belle rombière, 1955; (and adaptation) L'alcade de Zalaméa, 1955; Comment s'en débarrasser, 1955; L'ombre de la ravine, 1955; La famille Tuyau de Poêle, 1955; Victor; ou, les enfants au pouvoir, 1955; Grand-peur et misères du troisième reich, 1956; Les soldats, 1956; La leçon, 1956; Victimes du devoir, 1956; Aujourd'hui; ou, les coréens, 1956; Paolo-Paoli, 1957; Henri IV, 1957; Les trois mousquetaires, 1958; Les fourberies de Scapin, 1958; La seconde surprise de l'amour, 1959; Les ames mortes, 1960; George Dandin, 1960; Edouard II, 1960; Schweik dans la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, 1960; La seconde surprise de l'amour, 1960; Auguste Geai, 1962; (and writer) La remise, 1962; Le Tartuffe, 1962; La Villégiature, 1963; O'Man Chicago, 1963; Patte blanche, 1963; Troilus et Cressida, 1964; La fausse suivante, 1965; Falstaff, 1965; Poussière pourpre, 1966; Bérénice, 1966; Richard III, 1966; Dernier adieu d'Armstrong, 1967; Récital Dickens, 1967; Richard III, 1967; (and writer) Bleus, blancs, rouges; ou, Les libertins, 1967; Dans le vent, 1967; Le coup de Trafalgar, 1968; La mise en Pièces, 1969; (and writer) L'Infâme, 1969; Bérénice, 1969; Nicomède, 1970; Homme pour homme, 1970; The Massacre at Paris, 1972; La langue au chat, 1972; (and writer) Le cochon noir, 1973; Toller, 1973; Par-dessus bord, 1973; La dispute, 1973; La Dispute, 1974; Toller, 1974; Pardessus bord, 1974; A.A. Théâtre d'Arthur, 1975; Lear, 1975; Folies bourgeoises, 1975; (and writer) Gilles de Rais, 1977; Loin d'Hagondage, 1977; Antony and Cleopatra, 1978; Love's Labour's Lost, 1978; No Man's Land, 1979; Athalie, 1979; Dom Juan, 1979; Voyages chez les morts, 1983; and L'avare, 1986. Also director of films, including Louis, enfant roi and Lautrec. Actor in films, including Danton, 1983; The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983; Molière; and Un condamné à mort s'est échappé.

AWARDS, HONORS: Prix Ibsen, 1974, for Le cochon noir; Prix Georges Lherminier, Sydicate de la Critique Dramatique, 1986, 1988; named commandeur des Arts et des Lettres; Croix de Guerre, 1939–45; named chevalier, French Légion d'Honneur.

WRITINGS:

Patte blanche (play), first produced 1963.

Le cochon noir [and] La Remise (plays; La Remise first produced 1963), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1973.

Bleus, blancs, rouges; ou, Les libertins (play; also known as Blues, Whites, and Reds), first produced 1967.

Dans le vent (play), 1968.

Gilles de Rais [and] L'infâme (plays; L'infâme first produced 1969), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1975.

Alice par d'obscurs chemins, Editions L'Un Dans l'Autre (Paris, France), 1986.

Lautrec (screenplay), photographs by Marianne Rosenstiehl, Plume (Paris, France), 1998.

Apprentissages: Mémoires, Plon (Paris, France), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Roger Planchon is a director, playwright, and actor of working-class origin who is self-taught in theater. At age seventeen, he founded his first theatrical troupe, and in 1952, with several colleagues, he built the Théâtre de la Comédie in an unused print works in Lyon, France. Planchon was cofounder and codirector of the Théâtre de la Cité in Lyon from 1957 to 1972, and director from 1972 to 1995. He was a central figure in the decentralization of French theater and such a master at theatrical promotion and production that in 1972, Théâtre de la Cité was renamed the Théâtre National Populaire (TNP).

Planchon's greatest influences were Antonin Artaud, Arthur Adamov, and, in the mid-1950s, Bertolt Brecht. Planchon became one of the first and foremost French directors to produce Brecht's plays. What he found fascinating was Brecht's political directness; Planchon believes theater to be the most political of the arts. He first produced such contemporary plays as Adamov's Paolo Paoli and Professeur Taranne, as well as Michel Vinaver's Les coréens, but later directed his attention to the classics. In doing so, he rejuvenated them in a Brechtian manner, recreating them in a modern context. Planchon interprets Shakespearean history and tragedy with Marxist overtones and is not afraid to take liberties with the structure of classic comedies, including those of Molière and Marivaux, to present them in a fresh light. Planchon believes the stage director is equal with the dramatist and that "scenic writing"—the deployment of movement, gesture, speech, sound, and lighting—is as important as a play's text. In some theater, indeed, he maintains that dramatic spectacle may assume primacy over text.

In 1957 Planchon and his acting troupe moved to the 1,300-seat Théâtre Municipale Villeurbain, in a Lyon suburb. Planchon's purpose has always been to bring drama to a youthful, working-class audience, and in Villeurbain, he drew audiences comprised of factory workers. His was the first national theater to be located in the provinces when the TNP, formerly located at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, relocated to Villeurbain, where Planchon continued to pioneer the decentralization of theater.

A powerful actor and an original playwright, Planchon has written a dozen diverse plays, including his first, La remise, one of his "peasant" plays. The others are L'infâme, Le cochon noir, and Gilles de Rais. All of these plays, including Bleus, blancs, rouges; ou, Les libertins, a play about the French Revolution, take place in the provinces. La remise is of autobiographical origin, with the character Emile Chausson based on Planchon's peasant grandfather. Chausson is so obsessed with his land that he works his wife to death and causes one of his sons to leave home and the other to commit suicide. He is killed and an inquiry held into his murder. The play uses a multiple set to convey different levels of time and reality. The title of this play means both "the return" and a storage shed or outbuilding like the one the dramatist remembered being on his grandfather's farm. Other plays of this period that have contemporary settings are Patte blanche and Dans le vent.

The colors in Bleus, blancs, rouges; ou, Les libertins represent the bourgeoisie, artistocracy, and common people, and the action spans the years from 1789 to 1800. Written and produced in 1967, a second, more political version was produced in 1968 at the time of the Paris riots, and the title shortened. Like Patte blanche and Dans le vent, this play does not have a linear plot. The libertines are led by Aubier d'Arbonne, a young aristocrat who has refused to consummate his marriage to a young bourgeoise. Through the machinations of his mother-in-law he is imprisoned, then freed by the revolutionaries. Eventually he and his companions emigrate but sink into poverty, finally becoming thieves, prostitutes, and traffickers in arms in order to survive. In this play, the populace is represented by popular prints in tableaux inserted between scenes. The play's perspective is of the French Revolution as seen from a distance. It is a provincial point of view. Although Planchon believed the revolution passed power from aristocracy to bourgeoisie, bypassing the common people who brought it about, this is not a thesis play.

L'infâme, which means "The Villain," is based on the actual story of a parish priest in Lorraine, the notorious Abbé Desnoyers. After impregnating a local village girl, he murdered her, cut out the fetus, then killed and disfigured it, fearing it might resemble him. This grisly murder caused a sensation throughout France in 1956. What fascinated Planchon about the case was how the murderer, while claiming to know who had committed the crime but saying he could not reveal the facts, set the police on his own trail, confessing only at the last moment. Planchon sets this play, too, in the Ardèche. Le cochon noir ("The Black Pig") is an historical drama that takes place during the "semaine sanglante" (bloody week) of the 1871 Paris Commune. Planchon viewed the commune as the turning point when the proletariat came into its own and the death knell of the French countryside sounded. The plot centers on Violette, raped by the village scoundrel, Gédéon, on the day of her wedding. Believing she must not reveal what happened, she is taken for possessed and a sorcerer charged with exorcising her. After this exorcism, Violette kills herself. This play is influenced by Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt.

Produced in 1976, Gilles de Rais was published together with L'infâme. De Rais was a powerful figure, a Maréchal of France, executed in Nantes in 1440 for sexually abusing, torturing, and murdering hundreds of boys, and also for dabbling in alchemy. His trial and execution, which constitute the second half of the play, are so well presented that seeing this play is like watching a medieval morality play. This extensive scene may also be viewed as de Rais's own conception of his trial, strongly colored by imagination.

During the 1980s and thereafter, Planchon turned his sights increasingly to film. He was first attracted to this genre at the age of fifteen, upon viewing Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. Planchon has acted in several films. He has also directed films that include Louis, enfant roi, about the childhood of Louis XVI, and Lautrec, a film version of the life of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Planchon writes of his own life in his 2004 autobiography, Apprentissages: Mémoires.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Banham, Martin, editor, The Cambridge Guide to World Theatre, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Bradby, David, The Theatre of Roger Planchon, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Copfermann, Emile, Roger Planchon, Lausanne, 1969.

Daoust, Yvette, Roger Planchon: Director and Playwright, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Duvignaud, Jean, Itinéraire de Roger Planchon, [Paris, France], 1977.

Hartnoll, Phyllis, editor, The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, 4th edition, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Hughes, Alex, and Keith Reader, editors, Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.

International Dictionary of Theatre, Volume 3: Actors, Directors, and Designers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Planchon, Roger, Apprentissages: Mémoires, Plon (Paris, France), 2004.

Reid, Joyce M.H., editor, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of French Literature, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1976, pp. 616-618.

PERIODICALS

French Studies Bulletin, summer, 1987, G.J. Mallinson, "Planchon's L'avare and the Expectations of a Comedy," pp. 18-20.

Modern Drama, September, 1982, Rosette C. Lamon, review of Gilles de Rais, pp. 363-373.

Papers on French Seventeenth-Century Literature, Volume 26, issue 51, 1999, James F. Gaines, review of Dandin, pp. 309-317.

Sub-stance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, Volume 18-19, 1977, Anne Ubersfeld, "Adamov Today: A Reconsideration of Planchon's A.A.," pp. 182-188.

Planchon, Roger 1931–

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