The death of Gabriel Garran, creator of the Théâtre de la Commune de Aubervilliers

He created the Théâtre de la Commune in Aubervilliers, which was the first permanent theater in the working-class suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis. On Friday, May 6, Gabriel Garran passed away in Paris at the age of 95. Animator, director, director, author, he liked to say that he had met several “stages”. He gave an account of the first in a beautiful book, french geography (Flammarion, 2014) where he recounts the boy he was, rue de la Mare, at 20Y district. Born on May 3, 1927, he is a happy Parisian marmoset, between mother, younger sister and weaver father. His parents are from Poland, they are Jewish, but Gabriel Gersztenkorn (his birth name) doesn’t know that. Until the day he is insulted in the street and then kicked out of his class at the Lycée Turgot.

Gabriel Garran’s father will not return from Auschwitz. His mother, his sister and he cross France and the Occupation, from town to town, from cache to cache. Nail sorter in a shoe factory in Romans (Drôme), goat keeper in Vercors, the young Gabriel watches the French, dignified or abject, and escapes in reading. Words will continue to be the guiding thread of his life. At Liberation, he was 18 years old. He goes through small jobs, takes care of the children of the summer camps of the Central Commission for Children (CCE), where Daniel Darès, Boris Cyrulnik, Jean-Claude Grumberg… First monitor, Gabriel Garran becomes assistant address of the CCE, which David Lescot made known to the general public in a beautiful show, The Central Children’s Commission (in 2008).

Gabriel Garran is looking for a family. He meets him at the theater, which he begins to practice as an activist in a group, L’Espoir. Then come the courses with Tania Balachova, the founding meetings, Roger Blin, Arthur Adamov… Then comes the “fourth life”, in Aubervilliers. Gabriel Garran wants to expand decentralization, offer theater to the working population that has been gradually expelled from Paris. He started in 1961 by organizing an annual festival and drama school, in a gym. Supported by Michel Bataillon (future playwright of the Villeurbanne TNP) and Josyane Horville (future director of the Théâtre de l’Athénée), Gabriel Garran creates an offer. And the demand arrives.

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In this great era of “the red suburbs”, the team has the support of the communist mayor André Karman, and his deputy in charge of culture, Jack Ralite. Thanks to them, Gabriel Garran obtained the Théâtre de la Commune. Only the municipality of Aubervilliers pays for the refurbishment costs of an old town hall, entrusted to René Allio, who imagines a modern and functional theater, “beautiful as a power station electric “, depending on your expression. A theater, too, where there is no ticket office in the room or numbered seats: it must be “Free entry”. Cozy, and not intimidating. It opened in 1965.

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