The Screens

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The Screens (French: Les Paravents) is a play by the French dramatist Jean Genet.[1] Its first few productions all used abridged versions, beginning with its world premiere under Hans Lietzau's direction in Berlin in May 1961.[2] Its first complete performance was staged in Stockholm in 1964, two years before Roger Blin directed its French premiere in Paris.[3]

Cover design by Roy Kuhlman for the first English language edition, published by Grove Press, New York (1962).

Textual history[edit]

Genet began writing the play in 1955 and continued to develop it over the following few years, completing a first version in June 1958.[4] He re-wrote the play further while in Greece towards the end of 1959.[5] Marc Barbezat's publishing company L'Arbalète published it in February 1961, after which Genet re-wrote the play again.[5] It was first published in English by Grove Press, New York in 1962 (translated by Bernard Flechtman), with Faber and Faber publishing the UK edition the following year. In 1976, Genet published a second, revised version, which appears in the French edition of his Complete Works.[6]

Production history[edit]

The play premièred in an abridged German version in May 1961 at the Schlosspark-Theater in Berlin, which Hans Lietzau directed.[7] A slightly revised version of the problematic German translation used in Berlin was staged by Leon Epp two years later at the Volkstheater in Vienna in 1963.[3] Epp's interpretation emphasised the political conflict between the French and Algerians in the play.[8]

In 1964 in London, Peter Brook staged two-thirds of the play (its first twelve scenes, in a performance that lasted for two-and-a-half hours) at the Donmar Rehearsal Rooms as part of his experimental "Theatre of Cruelty" season with the Royal Shakespeare Company; he abandoned plans to stage the complete text, partly due to dissatisfaction with Bernard Frechtman's translation.[9]

The play's first complete performance was directed by Per Verner Carlsson at the Stadsteater in Stockholm in 1964.[3] Its five-hour-long production required six months of rehearsal preparation.[8]

Roger Blin directed the play's French première at the Odéon theatre in Paris, which opened on 21 April 1966.[10]

Genet became closely involved in rehearsals and published a series of letters to Blin about the theatre, the play, and the progress of its production.[11] André Acquart designed the sets and costumes, providing via three collapsible platforms four levels which 27 gliding screens divided into different playing areas, as wells as "sumptuous and theatrical" costumes and make-up.[12] Madeleine Renaud played Warda, Jean-Louis Barrault played the Mouth, María Casares played the Mother, and Amidou played Saïd.[13] Blin directed a German production in Essen in November 1967.[14]

Minos Volanakis directed the play's US première in New York 1971.[15] Patrice Chéreau directed a production at the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers in Nanterre, near Paris, in 1983.[16] In 1989 Joanne Akalaitis directed Paul Schmidt's translation at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, with Jesse Borrego as Said, and music by Philip Glass and Foday Musa Suso.


  1. ^ Frechtman (1963).
  2. ^ Dichy (1993, xxv) and White (1993, 547).
  3. ^ a b c White (1993, 547) and Savona (1981, 124).
  4. ^ Dichy (1993, xxiii, xxiv).
  5. ^ a b Dichy (1993, xxv).
  6. ^ Savona (1981, 123).
  7. ^ Dichy (1993, xxv), White (1993, 547), and Savona (1983, 123-124).
  8. ^ a b Savona (1981, 124).
  9. ^ White (1993, 547) and Savona (1981, 124).
  10. ^ Dichy (1993, xxvii) and Seaver (1972, 58-59).
  11. ^ Savona (124-125). The letters were published as Letters to Roger Blin, which is available in English translation in the volume Reflections on the Theatre, translated by Richard Seaver (1972, 7-60).
  12. ^ Seaver (1972, 58) and Savona (125).
  13. ^ Seaver (1972, 58-59).
  14. ^ Dichy (1993, xxviii) and White (1993, 571).
  15. ^ White (1993, 657).
  16. ^ Dichy (1993, xxxiii-iv).


  • Dichy, Albert. 1993. "Chronology." In White (1993, xiii-xxxv).
  • Frechtman, Bernard, trans. 1963. The Screens. By Jean Genet. London: Faber, 1987. ISBN 0-571-14875-1.
  • Lavery, Carl, Clare Finburgh, and Maria Shevtsova, eds. 2006. Jean Genet: Performance and Politics. Baisingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-9480-3.
  • Oswald, Laura. 1989. Jean Genet and the Semiotics of Performance. Advances in Semiotics ser. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP. ISBN 0-253-33152-8.
  • Savona, Jeannette L. 1983. Jean Genet. Grove Press Modern Dramatists ser. New York: Grove P. ISBN 0-394-62045-3.
  • Seaver, Richard, trans. 1972. Reflections on the Theatre and Other Writings. By Jean Genet. London: Faber. ISBN 0-571-09104-0.
  • Styan, J. L. 1981. Symbolism, Surrealism and the Absurd. Vol. 2 of Modern Drama in Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. ISBN 0-521-29629-3.
  • White, Edmund. 1993. Genet. Corrected edition. London: Picador, 1994. ISBN 0-330-30622-7.