Since its creation in 1680, the Comédie-Française has constantly surprised and stood out as an exceptional, thriving and creative “theatre factory”.
To deserve this definition, it carefully founds its exceptional status, its durability and its vitality on pillars that are as solid as they are immutable.
To properly understand and love the “House” of the Comédie-Française one must first take stock of what the troupe represents, these actors who are the heart of the institution. A unique and absolute reference in France, the troupe of the Comédie-Française is the oldest active theatre company in the world.
Created upon the order of the King in 1680 through the merger of the actors of the Hôtel de Bourgogne and those of the Hôtel Guénégaud (Molière’s troupe), the Comédie-Française was established with the initial structure of the Société des Comédiens Français. From Molière’s first companions up to today’s sociétaires, it has counted 533 actors.
One cannot fail to notice the apparent paradox: a long living history of nearly 350 years, during which there have only been 533 sociétaire actors...
Line of actors, filiation, transmission.
Throughout the ages, this line of actors – veritable “athletes of the emotions”– has been forged on the same tradition of rigour and professionalism. The Comédie-Française troupe is above all about shared values. A school of transmission for a collective project of excellence, it has chosen a motto that defines its spirit: Simul et singulis (be together and be oneself) and is the bedrock of a true “House culture”.
The Comédie-Française has therefore not finished fully asserting its exceptional Troupe status. An exceptional Troupe when it comes to the importance of what has always been its vocation: to be at once a hub of artistic creation, a space that fosters and develops, and a conservatory of the arts of speech. In short, a place rooted in its time and dedicated to perpetual renewal.
The repertoire of the Comédie-Française refers to all the works that can be performed on its main stage, currently the Salle Richelieu.
Contrary to what might be assumed, it is neither an ideal list of literary works nor a national recognition for an author, rather an illustration of the diversity of French and foreign dramatic writing.
To date, the Comédie-Française Repertoire has accumulated nearly 3,000 plays. Constantly evolving, being revitalised and enriched by the contemporary works of each era, by its very nature it is never fixed.
By encompassing diverse themes and subjects, eras and styles of writing for the theatre, the works of the Repertoire constitute memorial space for the dramatic arts that is constantly evolving and expanding over time to include the most varied styles of writing for the theatre.
Upon the proposal of the General Administrator, the Reading Committee decides whether or not to register a work in the Comédie-Française Repertoire.
Alternating the productions on the programme is one of the operating principles of the Comédie-Française. It is the only theatre in France to adopt this practice, which it shares with many theatres around the world, notably in Germany. At the Comédie-Française, it applies to the Salle Richelieu. This system, which offers the public the opportunity of discovering several plays at the same time, works in two ways: first, it means the productions alternate. Thus, in the same week, up to five different plays may be performed in the Salle Richelieu.
But the alternation also concerns the actors: as the Troupe performs up to eight plays concurrently on the three stages of the Comédie-Française (on top of which there are touring productions), several actors are cast in the same role.
The actors can therefore take turns in performing the role, making it possible to maintain a great diversity of plays on the programme.
The sixty actors making up the troupe thus have the particular quality and talent of working on several plays at the same time, whether in prose or verse, classical or contemporary, and on as many artistic registers, types of staging and performance styles, sometimes at polar opposites to each other.
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