1 December 2023

The large luminous wheel installed in the entrance hall of the National Popular Theater (TNP) gives a festive air to this temple of theatrical decentralization. This enchanting setting, a remnant of Liliomone of the shows created by Jean Bellorini, director of this central cultural place in Villeurbanne (Rhône), appears, unwittingly, as a nod to the petition titled “Don’t turn off the lights on live shows “.

Launched at the beginning of March on the initiative of the Syndicate of artistic and cultural enterprises, this text, which has collected nearly 12,000 signatures, challenges the government on a sector on the verge of financial breakdown. “At a time when inflationary and energy tensions are not drying up, when the support of local authorities is crumbling, we are sounding the alarm”, exclaims the main union of public stages. Exploding costs, stagnating subsidies, the subsidized live show feels attacked in its ability to meet its multiple public service missions.

Even a well-endowed liner like the TNP – 18,000 square meters, some 90 permanent staff, three performance halls, including one with 660 seats, four rehearsal rooms – is shaken. “I thought I was running one of the best protected theatres, due to its history, its status, and I find myself struggling to make ends meet and having the only solution to reduce activity. It’s crazy “testifies Jean Bellorini, at the head of this National Dramatic Center (CDN) since January 2020. To the additional costs generated by the energy bill (up by 100,000 euros) and by wage pressure (due to the increase in the index) are added to the political choices made for a year by the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional council.

Everything is down

In the name of a “territorial rebalancing”, the region, chaired by Laurent Wauquiez (Les Républicains – LR), reduced, without consultation, the subsidies of several cultural institutions, including the TNP. In the spring of 2022, the theater team learned in the press that the region was withdrawing up to 150,000 euros, increasing its annual allocation from 500,000 to 350,000 euros. A year later, the potential risk of a total withdrawal looms. The programming for the 2023-2024 season is being finalized without knowing the future amount of subsidy from the regional council, the regional cultural commission, initially scheduled for March, having been canceled.

“Currently, we are living beyond our means.summarizes Pauline Huillery, administrator of the TNP. In the 2023 financial year, we reached a deficit of 450,000 euros. » Jean Bellorini assumes “take that risk”because he still has a mandate of three years to readjust the accounts if the situation worsens, and because he wants, for the time being, to maintain a theater “open and alive” without increasing the average ticket price (13.50 euros). “I fight against the tendency to lighten artistic forms. The TNP continues to claim, in terms of production house, strong forms, which completely inhabit the stage cage. Otherwise, we will show, in a few years, that our houses are useless. »

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