Copeau, Jacques

Copeau, Jacques

(zhäk kôpō`), 1879–1949, French theatrical producer and critic. A founder (1909) and editor (1912–14) of the Nouvelle Revue française, he established the experimental Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris (1913–24) in order to produce poetic drama of artistic worth. Ever in search of a more truthful and direct performance style, Copeau was an influential figure in the modern theater. He encouraged many young dramatists and actors and also introduced the use of symbolic scene design.


See W. Fowlie, Dionysus in Paris (1960).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Copeau, Jacques


Born Feb. 4,1879, in Paris; died Oct. 20, 1949, in Beaune, department of Cote d’Or. French stage director, actor, and theater figure.

Copeau studied in the department of language and literature at the Sorbonne and became a literary and dramatic critic. In 1913 he founded the Théâtre de Vieux Colombier in Paris, which he directed until 1924 (he worked in the USA from 1917 to 1919). Copeau presented plays by Moliere (The Miser, 1913, and Les Fourberies de Scapin, 1917), Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, 1914), Goldoni, Gozzi, Gogol, and Merimée, as well as contemporary drama—for example, Remains’ Cromedeyre-le-vieil (1920) and S. S. Tenacity (1920) and Michel Auclair (1922) by Vildrac.

Copeau wanted to create profound, poetic productions, advocated edifying, ethical interpretations of art, and decried the crass mediocrity of the commercial theater. He opened a drama school in 1915. His views on the art of acting and his system of teaching in many ways resembled Stanislavsky’s. His own best performances were in roles that were infused with irony (Jaques in As You Like It by Shakespeare) or intense philosophical in-sight (Ivan Karamazov in his adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov ). Between 1936 and 1940 he worked in the Comédie Françhise.

Copeau was the author of the plays Morning Fog (1897) and Native Home (1924). One of the founders of modern French theater, Copeau influenced such actors as L. Jouvet, C. Dullin, J. Villar, J.-L. Barrault, and A. Barsacq.


Souvenirs du Vieux-Colombier. Paris, 1931.
Notes sur le métier de comedien. Paris, 1955.


Kurtz, M. Jacques Copeau. Paris [1950].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.