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Theatre du Gymnase Marie-Bell – Grands Boulevards

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Theatre du Gymnase Marie-Bell, the charm of 19th century architecture

Theatre du Gymnase Marie-Bell is one of the many theaters located on the Grands Boulevards.

It was built in 1820 on the site of a mansion and its gardens and on a section of the nearby Eglise Bonne-Nouvelle former cemetery.

Designed by the architects Auguste Rougevin and Louis Regnier, Marquis de Guerchy, it has retained its original appearance and superb Belle Epoque facade.

The theatre hall, designed by Regnier, was redone in 1850 and again in 1880.

However, it hasn’t changed since, except for few minor decorative additions made in 1900.

Its ceiling, painted by the artists Compan and Plumet, is also original.

Gymnase-Dramatique, a training school for young actors

The theatre was inaugurated on December 23, 1820 as Gymnase-Dramatique.

It then served as training school for students of the Conservatory and presented only single-act plays.

A theater dedicated to classical tragedy

Its director, Charles Gaspard Poirson converted it soon into a traditional theater.

He relentlessly worked until 1844 at reviving classical tragedy and signed up talented playwrights.

He also modernized the theater and installed gas in 1823.

Placed under the patronage of the Duchess of Berry, the daughter-in-law of King Charles X, the theater was renamed Theater Madame the following year.

It was renovated in 1830, but reopened after the Revolution of July under its original name.

A theater brought to the taste of the day

The comedian and playwright Adophe Auguste Lemoine, aka Montigny, took over the direction of the theater in 1844.

He abandoned the repertoire of classical tragedies for more sentimental plays, more to the taste of the day, in order to attract an eclectic public.

He therefore produced plays written by Balzac, Alexandre Dumas father and son and George Sand to name the most famous.

This obviously was a good move, as a century later the theater was still doing very well!

In the inter-war period, the playwright Henry Berstein – the then director - produced plays written by the greatest playwrights of the 20th century - Marcel Pagnol, Jean Cocteau, Sacha Guitry and Jean Genet to name a few.

These plays are indeed today considered great classics.

Theatre du Gymnase Marie-Bell

The tragic actress Marie Bell took over the direction of the theatre in 1962.

Jacques Bertin, who became administrator in 1975, took over when she died in 1985.

1975 is also the year the theatre was renamed Theatre du Gymnase Marie Bell.

In 2010, it went into partnership with La Comédie des Boulevards and joined the association Les Théâtres Parisiens Associés.

The 800-seat Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell has two other small stages; the Studio Marie-Bell with a capacity of 90 seats and Le Petit-Gymnase with 160 seats, as well as a café and a restaurant.

Directions: 10th district – 38 Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle
Metro: Bonne-Nouvelle on Lines 8, 9
Coordinates: Lat 48.870883 - Long 2.348866

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