1951-1981 (Jean Vilar, George Wilson...)
Agnès VARDA / Agence Enguerand
When he took over the theater in 1951, Jean Vilar was already lauded for the growing success of the Festival d’Avignon which he had created four years before. A student of Charles Dullin, he enlisted the talents of up-and-coming actors, with Gérard Phillipe as a leading voice, and implemented policies towards broadening the appeal of the theater which he thought was still too elitist. These included lower ticket prices, elimination of tips, free program and coat room, outreach to corporate labor committees, changes in schedules to enable suburb dwellers to come home with public transportation. This resulted in the theater enhancing its standing and an exceptionally high turnout.
While Maurice Jarre became Jean Vilar’s regular composer, Marcel Jacno handled posters and invented the “TNP (the National People’s Theater)”, and along with its stagings a generation of actors came into their own, including Philippe Noiret, Jeanne Moreau, Charles Denner, Maria Casarès, etc. The theater also held balls, dinner concerts, school sessions and the teams worked relentlessly both in Chaillot and on tour.
Jean Vilar would remain the symbol of an art form that he exposed to popular acclaim without sacrificing his dedication to quality and modernism. He left the TNP in 1963, disappointed with the State’s lack of commitment to his project.
George Wilson, who held the position from 1963 to 1972, was a lot more than merely the “continuator” of Vilar’s work. Not only did his repertoire include more than half of contemporary creations but he was also able to meet the expectations of an audience that was getting accustomed to television. He actually demanded the construction of the theatre Gémier whose capacity brought the audience closer to performers.
Director from 1972 to 1974, Jack Lang, then director of the Nancy festival, was responsible for the overhaul of the large auditorium. While its capacity was reduced (1,250 seats), its design allowed the stage to gain in size and scenery volume. He created the Théâtre National for children and brought in prestigious stage directors such as Bob Wilson.
Stage director and founder of the Théâtre de la Cité Universitaire, André-Louis Perinetti headed Chaillot from 1975 to 1981. He particularly took on a theater under construction and therefore unmanageable, with the shows mostly playing on the stage of the Théâtre de la Cité Universitaire.