Festival d'Avignon

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A main venue of the 60th (2006) Avignon Theatre Festival staged at the Popes' Palace, featuring Asobu, a play by the festival artistic associate Josef Nadj (fifth from the left).

The Festival d'Avignon, or Avignon Festival, is an annual arts festival held in the French city of Avignon every summer in July in the courtyard of the Popes' Palace as well as in other locations of the city. Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, it is the oldest extant festival in France and one of the world's greatest. Alongside the official festival, the "In" one, a numer of shows are presented in Avignon at the same time of the year and are known as the "Off".

In 2008, some 950 shows were performed during three weeks.

The Birth of a Festival[edit]

1947, The Week of Scenic Arts[edit]

Art critic Christian Zervos and poet René Char organized a modern art exhibition held in the main chapel of the Pope's Palace in Avignon. In that setting, they asked Jean Vilar, actor, director and theater director, to present Meurtre dans la cathédrale which he adapted in 1945.

After refusing, Vilar proposed three plays: Shakespeare's Richard II, a play well known in France, La Terrasse de midi, by Maurice Clavel, then unknown author, and L'Histoire de Tobie et de Sara by Paul Claudel.[1]

The "In" Festival[edit]

The festival is organised by a non-profit organisation (since 1980), which is administered by a board of trustees composed of: the French state, the city of Avignon, the Département of Vaucluse, the Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, and seven public figures competent in the field of theatre. Amongst other places, the "In" Festival is performed in the "Cour d'Honneur" - the honours courtyard - of the Palais des Papes, the place of residence of the Avignon papacy during most of the 14th century.

The "Off" Festival[edit]

The "Off" festival is also organised by a non-profit organisation composed mostly of theatre companies and is performed in theaters schools, streets and all places suitable for performing.


The Festival d'Avignon was founded by Jean Vilar in 1947.

Jean Vilar was invited to present his first great successful play - Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot in the Popes Palace. At the same moment and at the same place, an exhibition of contemporary paintings and sculptures was organised by Christian Zervos, an art critic and collector, and by René Char, the poet.

Vilar initially refused the invitation as for him the Cour d'Honneur of the Popes Palace was too vast and "shapeless" and he also lost the performance rights of the play. However, he proposed three creations : Shakespeare's Richard II, one of the Bard's plays that was little known at the time in France; Paul Claudel's Tobie et Sara (Tobie and Sara), and Maurice Clavel's second play, La Terrasse de Midi (The Midday Terrace). The very first Festival d'Avignon in September 1947 set the scene as a showcase for unknown work and modern scripts.

There are four distinct stages in the evolution of the Festival d'Avignon.

Strikes during the Festival[edit]

In july the 3rd 2014, the festival committee has voted 224 votes against 110 (4 votes of abstention) a strike during the event in support of the recent claims of the intermittent workers about their unemployment insurance.

This echoes a similar decision taken during the 2003 festival and which had strongly disrupted schedules.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ « Histoire », Site of the festival d'Avignon