Beyond the Bastille

Prise de la Bastille by Henri Paul Perrault, 1928

France celebrates Bastille Day on July 14, the day in 1789 that revolutionaries seized the Bastille in Paris, starting the French Revolution that ushered in the French Republic. The Bastille was a medieval fortress built to protect Paris, but 18th century monarchs used it as a political prison. Bastille Day has been a national holiday in France since 1880.

For American theater-goers, the French revolution conjures images of the musical “Les Miserables,” based on one of Victor Hugo’s many novels. It’s being performed Jan 20-29, 2012 by Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale — which has enlisted Jon Gentry, associate artist with Childsplay in Tempe, to direct the work.

Before Hugo finished “Les Miserables” (1862), he wrote “Notre-Dame de Paris” — better known to Americans as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” A stage adaptation is being performed Sept 9-25 by Theater Works’ Youth Works in Peoria.

You can enjoy a taste of France this month at the Phoenix Art Museum — which presents “Theatre de la Mode,” an exhibit of mid-20th century French fashion design, through July 31. Featured garments were created for one-third human size mannequins using couture fabrics and details, then placed within elaborate stage sets.

Theatre de la Mode” originated in Paris following World War II as French fashion designers, jewelers, shoemakers, milliners and hairdressers united to raise war relief funds and reinvigorate their industries. Three of 12 scenes on exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum are from the historic 1945 collection. And works by French artists are part of the museum’s permanent European collection.

The French Language Program in the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University will host the “2012 Women in French Conference” Feb 24-25, 2012 — highlighting “the influence, representation, presence and achievement of French and Francophone women from the Middle Ages through the 21st Century.”

Two of five works being performed by Arizona Opera during their 2011-12 season will be sung in French with English subtitles. A new production of “Faust” designed by Bernard Uzan reimagines “Faust” in modern times — trading village fair for nightclub. “Orfeo ed Euridice” is the retelling of a Greek myth featuring sets by New York’s John Conklin.

Paris Opera Ballet will perform in Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York next year as part of their first North American tour in more than a decade. The New York Times reports that Paris Opera Ballet will perform “Suite en Blanc,” “L’Arlésienne,” “Bolero,” “Giselle” and Pina Bausch’s version of “Orpheus and Eurydice.”

If your arts organization has upcoming offerings with a French flair, please comment below to let our readers know. Merci!


Note: To enjoy the flavor of France with younger children, read Le Petit Prince (first published in 1943) or Histoire de Babar (first published in 1931)

Coming up: Fun with arts fundraisers, Ode to Christopher Robin, Film meets journalism, Cinderella tales


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