Ariane Mnouchkine

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Ariane Mnouchkine : biography

20 March 1939 –

Ariane Mnouchkine (born 1939) is a world-renowned French stage director. She founded the Parisian avant-garde stage ensemble Théâtre du Soleil in 1964. She has written and directed 1789 (1974) and Molière (1978), and in 1989, she directed La Nuit Miraculeuse. She holds a Chair of Artistic Creation at the Collège de France , an Honorary Degree in Performing Arts from the University of Rome III, awarded in 2005 and an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Oxford, awarded 18 June 2008 .


Ariane Mnouchkine is the daughter of Russian film producer Alexandre Mnouchkine and Jane Hannen. She is the maternal granddaughter of British stage actor Nicholas "Beau" Hannen. Ariane is the namesake of the production company "Ariane Films" that was founded by her father.

Mnouchkine attended University in England and studied psychology before returning to her roots in theatre. She continued theatre studies at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq where in 1964 she founded Théâtre du Soleil (Theatre of the Sun) with her fellow students. The theatre collective still continues to create social and political critiques of local and world cultures.

Mnouchkine is a strong influence in modern theatre and is quoted for saying "I am in the present and only the present matters to me" on a regular basis.

Mnouchkine is a strong believer in the collaborative process of theatre. She builds her work with her company Théâtre du Soleil and has been quoted as saying "the director has already achieved the greatest degree of power he has ever had in history. And our aim is to move beyond that situation by creating a form of theatre where it will be possible for everyone to collaborate without there being directors, technicians, and so on, in the old sense." She and her company develop their works using many techniques. Sometimes, the troupe develops ideas out of improvisational exercises. They also incorporate multiple styles of theatre in their work – ranging from commedia dell’arte to various Asian rituals.

Théâtre du Soleil’s productions are often performed in found spaces like barns or gymnasiums because Mnouchkine does not like being confined to a typical stage. Similarly, she feels theatre cannot be restricted with the "fourth wall". When audiences enter a Mnouchkine production, they will often find the actors preparing (putting on makeup, getting into costume) right before their eyes.

Mnouchkine has developed her own works, like the political-themed 1789, as well as numerous classical texts, like Molière’s Don Juan or Tartuffe. Between 1981 and 1984, she translated and directed a series of William Shakespeare plays: Richard II, Twelfth Night, and Henry IV, Part 1. While she developed the shows one at a time, when she finished Henry IV, she toured the three together as a cycle of plays. Similarly, she developed Iphigenia by Euripides and the Oresteia (Agamemnon, Choephori, and The Eumenides) between 1990 and 1992.

While mainly a stage director, Ariane has been involved in a few movies. Her movie 1789 filmed from the live production), which dealt with the French Revolution, brought her international fame in 1974. In 1978 she wrote and directed Molière, a biography of the famous French playwright for which she received an Oscar nomination. She has also collaborated with Hélène Cixous on a number of projects including La Nuit miraculeuse and Tambours sur la digue, two made-for-television movies in 1989 and 2003 respectively. She also has writing credit for L’Homme de Rio ("The Man From Rio"), 1964.

On 26 May 2009 it was pronounced at an arrangement at the Ibsen Museum in Oslo by the leader of the committee, actress Liv Ullmann, that Ariane Mnouchkine was this year’s winner of the International Ibsen Award. The prize will be given to her at a ceremony at the National Theatre in Oslo on 10 September 2009. Mnouchkine received the Goethe Medal in 2011.