The Repertoire of the Comédie-Française consists of all the plays performed by the Comédiens-Français on their main stage, today the Salle Richelieu. Any work may be entered into the Repertoire of the Comédie-Française by the Reading Committee, upon the proposal of the General Administrator.
Outside of the Reading Committee, the administrator may decide to form a readers’ bureau given the task of reading all manuscripts sent to the Comédie-Française by authors or translators. Today, the readers’ bureau is chaired by the Comédie-Française’s literary adviser. The bureau receives and reads each play, then discusses it and decides whether or not to include it in the two annual public readings held at the Studio-Théâtre or the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier.
The readers’ bureau informs the administrator of the plays that particularly draw its attention with a view to a possible staging in one of the three theatres. If the staging is proposed for the Salle Richelieu, then the play will be submitted to the reading committee for inclusion in the Repertoire. Today the readers’ bureau is a major tool of the programming established by Muriel Mayette. It meets six times a year and reads about two hundred and fifty texts. The bureau is made up of members of the Comédie-Française and external members. All bureau members are invited to give their impressions of the texts they have read and to provide an assessment of their innovative qualities in terms of form and choice of subject as well as their literary quality. The texts that stand out are read a second or third time. The texts that are accepted unanimously and without reservation by the first readers are reviewed by all board members, and may be selected for a public reading. With the agreement of the authors, the selected texts are made available for consultation in the Comédie-Française library.
During the public reading sessions, “committed spectators”, meaning spectators who attend the entire cycle of readings, are invited to comment on the plays and pick one of them as their favourite. The activities of the bureau and the organisation of these readings help to cast light on texts that have often never been performed or published. In this way, these texts may find a place in the programme of the Comédie-Française or in the programme of one of the partner institutions to which they are referred: the National Office of Music, Dance, Drama and Performance – which since 1 January 2010 has become the National Office of Artistic Creation (DGCA) at the Ministry of Culture – Association Aneth (for new theatre writing), Association Beaumarchais/SACD, National Theatre Centre, publishers, or France Culture. These contacts allow for a better exploitation of the works of some authors and sometimes material support: production or publication grants, and residencies.
Members of the Bureau :
The plays distinguished by the public (“committed spectators” group) during the 2007-2008 season were Burn Baby Burn by Carine Lacroix and The Sound of Cracking Bones by Suzanne Lebeau; in 2008-2009: The Sickness of the M. Family by Fausto Paravidino and The Children of the Full Moon by Emanuelle delle Piane; in 2009: Barbelo, on Dogs and Children by Biljana Srbljanovic.
The Sound of Cracking Bones and Burn Baby Burn were staged in February 2010 by Anne-Laure Liégeois at the Studio-Théâtre and The Sound of Cracking Bones will be revived during the Contemporary Encounters. The Sickness of the M. Family will be directed this season by the author at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier. The cycle of readings at the Studio-Théâtre in February 2011 focused on contemporary dramatic literature translated from Arabic languages, in dialogue with contemporary French texts.
Mélinée Moreau, secrétaire du bureau des lecteurs :