Marianne Clévy was recently appointed director of La Chartreuse in Villeneuve lez Avignon (The National Playwriting Centre), and looks back over the breadth of her career path before talking about supporting authors and sharing her view of how the French language has developed.
You have been director of La Chartreuse since October 2020, a place that hosts artists’ residencies in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Can you tell us a little about your career path?
I discovered the pleasure of theatre thanks to the Toulouse conservatory. It’s a disciplinary genre that led me down a professional path with an intimate relationship with text for forty years. First of all I was an actress before understanding that I was more disposed to tell stories and stage them. If the fact that I like contemporary text came from my mother, a musician, my artistic development was influenced by the period surrounding the fall of the Berlin wall. I lived in the Balkans from 1992 to 1998, particularly in Bulgaria, where I staged shows in Bulgarian and French. After 1998, I deepened my knowledge of cultural policy before becoming scheduler then director of the "Corps de Textes" (Body Text) festival at the Centre dramatique (drama centre) in Rouen and more recently director of the "Terres de Paroles" literature and art festival in Normandy. By applying for the post at La Chartreuse, I wanted to take an interest in the question of heritage and the word I like the best: hospitality.
By taking up this new collaboration, you wanted to widen the audience of La Chartreuse. How do you envisage introducing text dramatisation?
Right from the beginning of my career, I have liked coming up with ways the public and artists can meet. In the Occitan region, which is where I come from, we are currently setting up review panels. For five months, fifteen playwrights’ plays are being given to reviewers who will then choose a playwright to hear a reading and meet to discuss the work. In the autumn, this initiative will give the bring 100 to 150 people into play. We assert that reading plays is boring, but on the contrary, it gives rise to passionate debates. When people ultimately go to see a show, they no longer separate things and are capable of enjoying them with the material that text is.
You inherit a partnership agreement with the Institut français orientated towards French-speaking authors, in particular from the African continent. What is your view of their writing?
It is a view imbued with appetite and curiosity, passed on by my predecessor, Catherine Dan, but which must be refined further. I want to recognise an energy, a generation of men and women who write. There is a huge opportunity when new codes are invented like in Cameroon or Guinea. It’s very interesting to remove the question of reference and approach each artist in what they want to see about a theatre today. Contemporary decoded writing is extraordinary inventiveness: each author can obey writing codes or not but also find their own language. We want to guide this search for a universe and reciprocity in exchanging text. La Chartreuse has also initiated a Résidences Parcours (Path Residency) programme to supervise an author who will stay for several months in order to manage the various networks.
In an environment where the French language seems more and more weakened, what is your opinion on current uses and its development?
I think that today we are in a reinterpretation of literature and the French language, in particular through important subjects in society. I think that it remains a very beautiful enduring language. I often have the impression that defending or protecting does not lead us to reveal weaknesses even if they must be recognised. We have to be vigilant and pay attention to the museography, in rejecting what develops and transforms. La Chartreuse carries out the work for this transformation without however breaking with it. Should we therefore defend the French language or say that our work is to guide artists? It is certainly a language that causes affect but we must always remind ourselves that it took on the responsibility of being respected and loved.
Within the scope of residencies in the current context, have you envisaged digital sessions to maintain connections with authors?
When residencies with foreign authors have not been able to take place, we turned to the digital methods currently being used. These days the benefits of a residency at La Chartreuse cannot be replaced by digital tools. For a year we have been asking ourselves what the toxic version of digitisation represents but I’ve accepted the idea that a tool or vehicle should never be refused for reaching as many people as possible. We have therefore embarked on creating a web magazine that will be published every six months from September. It will be based on all of the meetings that will happen in the spring and summer. It will be an editorial reflection with reports and videos. Alongside that, I am looking for another way to permanently share what is written at La Chartreuse.
At a time when culture has been particularly impacted by the health crisis, what possibilities are important to you in the coming months?
We don't know if people will be able to visit La Chartreuse this summer but we are certain that artists and researchers will be able to work. Within this constrained framework, about fifteen residents are here and everything is fine. Today we are drawing up an upbeat programme to listen to texts, create a bivouac of review panels or host the latest winner of the RFI prize. All these people are in the process of questioning the world through writing and, in comparison to other cultural places, we really have the feeling that we are active. It would be wonderful if we could open to visitors, but even just with exclusive access to professionals, we will also take advantage of this place to research, create and exchange.
The Institut français has a three-year partnership with La Chartreuse, in particular to support French-speaking authors. La Chartreuse is one of the reference places set up as part of the French presidential plan for the French language and multilingualism.
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