The city of Nice is home to one of France’s thirty-eight National Centres of Dramatic Art (CDN) - the National Theatre of Nice, Nice Côte d’Azur. The creation of the CDN in Nice came about in 1969 following an agreement between the City of Nice, the supervisory Ministry and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
A theatre selected as a National Centre of Dramatic Art
The journey towards decentralisation began in 1947 when the National Centres of Dramatic Art in Colmar and Saint-Etienne first opened their doors, inspired by the idea that theatre could also be pioneered, developed and promoted on a regional basis. The role of the CDN is to produce original works and make them accessible to the public at large. The CDN epitomizes creativity within the “decentralisation” process, bringing culture to life and extending its reach beyond the capital. This is also why artists, to endow the theatre’s projects with a strong and distinct artistic direction, run the CDN. Part of the role of the nominated artistic director involves producing his/her own shows but also making the facilities available to other artistic directors and performers. The Culture Minister, who makes the decision after consulting the various authorities that provide the necessary operational funding, is directly responsible for appointing the director of a CDN. The thirty-eight CDN in France all come together under the auspices of the ACDN Association, which was set up in order to further dialogue between the different artistic directors and to galvanize the action of the CDN.
The tnn’s directors: lineage...
Gabriel Monnet [1969 - 1974]
In recognition of his work as director of their Maison de la culture & de la Comédie, the municipality of Bourges put Gabriel Monnet forward for the position as director of the newly created CND in Nice. He started his term with a production of a play by Edward Bond that put both the army and religion under the microscope. This provoked a rather hostile reaction from the municipality of Nice. By the end of his term, in 1974, he had directed a number of memorable shows including Pucelle by Audiberti (The Maid of Orleans) with Silvia Montfort in 1970, O’Casey’s Coquin de Coq (Cock-a-Doodle Dandy), Shakespeare’s La Tempête (The Tempest), L’École des femmes (The School for Wives) and La Critique de l’École des femmes (Review of The School for Wives) by Molière... The following year he went on to join the Centre Dramatique des Alpes in Grenoble.
Jean-Pierre Bisson [1975 - 1978]
Passionate about theatre and driven by the need to express his deepest concerns, Jean-Pierre Bisson immersed himself in a world of angry marginality. Actor, author and director, he gained recognition at the Théâtre de la Tempête in Sarcelles-sur-mer and played to small venues as well as in the Off Festival in Avignon. In 1975, mindful of reinvigorating the theatre decentralization process, Michel Guy proposed that Jean-Pierre Bisson become director of the CDN in Nice. However, stepping into the shoes of such a forward-thinking founding director as Gabriel Monnet was no easy task. Jean-Pierre Bisson tried body and soul to meet this challenge and brought many famous actors, well-known playwrights and his own works to the stage. He left however after three years, not managing to achieve the self-fulfillment he had sought.
Jean-Louis Thamin [1978 - 1985]
Jean-Louis Thamin trained in stage management at the renowned Ecole de la rue Blanche in Paris, then became Assistant Director to Raymond Rouleau and Tania Balachova before going on the found his own theatre company, la Compagnie de la Contrescarpe. His Les Fourberies de Scapin (Scapin – The Schemer) was a resounding success but it was Arlequin, A Servant with Two Masters by Goldoni, played at the Théâtre Mouffetard in 1968, which really brought him public acclaim. In 1969, Jean Vilar asked him to refresh the image of the Avignon Festival, alongside Ariane Mnouchkine and Patrick Guinand. In 1978, he became director of the CDN in Nice where he produced L’Etourdi (The Bungler) by Molière, Un Balcon sur les Andes (A balcony over the Andes), by Eduardo Manet, Audiberti’s Le mal court and L’Echange (The exchange) by Paul Claudel. In 1986 he was nominated director of the CDN of Bordeaux-Aquitaine.
Jacques Weber [1986 - 2002]
Jacques Weber, who is first and foremost an actor, took the helm of the CDN in Lyon from 1979 to 1985. It was in 1983 that Jérôme Savary introduced him to a certain character: Cyrano de Bergerac. This role fit him like a glove and was dear to his heart. He produced various adaptations of Molière’s plays and even Shakespeare’s La Mégère Apprivoisée (The Taming of the Shrew) for Jérôme Savary in co-production with the Théâtre National de Chaillot. His reputation lent itself to courting co-production work and shared performances between organisations of a like calibre. He was director of the CDN in Nice from 1986 to 2002.
Daniel Benoin [2002 - 2013]
Following on from his time in Saint-Étienne (1975-2002), Daniel Benoin saw in Nice a strong growth potential on a regional, national and international level. He created a permanent troupe of performers, integrating some of the actors who from Saint-Etienne. He banked on the number of shows and performances he offered to the public…providing ”a virtually exhaustive overview of current, key theatre trends.” His term as director in Nice began with his version of Festen (Family Celebration) by Thomas Vinterberg and Morgens Rukov. He went on to bring Kryzysztof Warlikowski to Nice with his very first production in French of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alfredo Arias (Mère et fils) Mother and Son, Daniel Mesguich (Acts from Tchekhov) and Antoine Bourseiller’s world première of Bagne (The Penal Colony) by Jean Genet.
Irina Brook [from 2014]
The vast richness of Irina Brook’s biography hails as much from her own productions as her active involvement in so many performances. She is one of the rare directors who, at the invitation of Ariane Mnouchkine, has directed the Théâtre du Soleil troupe and with whom she revisited All’s well that ends well at the Avignon Theatre Festival. In 2000, she directed Résonances by Katherine Burger for which she won a Molière for the Best Female Newcomer as well as the SACD prize for Emerging Talent. In 2014, Irina Brook became the first female artistic director to head up the TNN. The programming she offers is both committed and accessible, opening the way for audiences to experience a real sense of sharing and enjoyment.