André Antoine  

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André Antoine (1858 - 1943), French actor-manager, was born at Limoges, and in his early years was in business. He was a clerk at a gas station and worked in the Archer Theatre when he asked to produce a dramtization of a Zola novel. The amateur group refused and he went on to create the Théâtre Libre in 1887.

Antoine founded the Théâtre Libre in Paris, in order to realize his ideas as to the proper development of dramatic art. His work had enormous influence on the French stage, as well as similar companies like the Independent Theatre Society in London and the Freie Buhne in Germany.

Antoine opposed the teachings of the Paris Conservatory, and the Théâtre Libre focused on a more naturalist style of acting and staging. Théâtre Libre was inspired by the Meiningen Ensemble; they performed works by Zola, Becque, Brieux, and plays by contemporary German, Scandinavian, and Russian naturalists. In 1894 Antoine was forced to relenquish the theater due to financial failure, but he went on to form Théâtre Antoine, which followed the tradition set by Théâtre Libre until its close 10 years later.

Plays performed at the Théâtre Libre were often "thin on plot, dense in social and psychological implication" (Chothia, Andre Antoine). The acting which was practiced there was also naturalistic, as opposed to the more presentational acting styles which were prevalent at the time. Antoine and the Théâtre Libre built the fourth wall. Despite all this naturalism, they still adhered to some ideas of "playing for the audience" – there is no evidence that Antoine ever set any chairs facing away from the audience, and the actors still had to make sure that their voices could be heard to the back of the house -- so, in a way, their "naturalism" was really just a higher level of illusion than theatre had been up to that point.

In 1894 Antoine gave up the direction of this theatre, and became connected with the Gymnase, and later (1896) with the Odéon. He worked in and around theatre until 1914.


(Works as film director)

  • Les Frères corses, 1915
  • Le Coupable, 1917
  • Les Travailleurs de la mer, 1917
  • L'Hirondelle et la mésange, 1920 (forgotten for 60 years, première in 1982)
  • Quatre-vingt-treize, 1920
  • Mademoiselle de La Seiglière, 1920
  • La Terre, 1921
  • L'Arlésienne, 1922

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