French stage director. Antoine Vitez was a key figure on the European stage in the second half of the 20th century. His many theatre activities – sixty-three plays; more than fifteen authors translated from Russian and ancient or modern Greek; teaching at the Jacques-Lecoq school, at the Amandiers, the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique (National Conservatory of Dramatic Art), and at Chaillot; the creation of journals and management structures (Théâtre des Quartiers d’Ivry 1972-1981; Théâtre National de Chaillot 1981-1988; Comédie-Francaise 1988-1990) – also included various incursions into the territory of the puppet.
As a young Parisian actor, at the beginning of the 1950s Vitez attended the classes of Tania Balachova and joined with Maurice Garrel, actor and puppeteer, then a member of the cabaret troupe of Alain Recoing. With Garrel’s help, Vitez met Recoing, and an enduring friendship began between the two artists and their families. In 1957, Vitez translated and adapted La Clef d’or (The Golden Key), an Alexei Tolstoy tale, for Recoing’s puppet troupe. He staged the show at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier at the end of that year. In 1962, Vitez became the “literary director” of the Théâtre du Quotidien in Marseilles. At this theatre, Agnes Vanier, his wife, was responsible for the puppets, for which Vitez wrote dialogue for the Trois Ours (The Three Bears) after the Leo Tolstoy tale, created in December. In 1976, while director of the Théâtre des Quartiers d’Ivry, he produced La Ballade de Mister Punch, by Éloi Recoing, with Alain’s company, with a second version in 1979. In addition, the Théâtre des Quartiers d’Ivry undertook the administration of the Recoing company and loaned them premises.
As head of the Théâtre National de Chaillot, Antoine Vitez took a key role – much disputed by the proponents of the new trends – in regularly programming puppet performances for young audiences, in the theatre foyers and in castelets (puppet stages or booths). In 1982, he wrote the preface for Les Marionnettes (Bordas), a book edited by Paul Fournel. His interest allowed young artists such as Pierre Blaise, Grégoire Callies and Jeanne Vitez, Daniel Soulier, and the Turkish Isil Kasapoglu, to begin their careers in exceptional circumstances and to attract attention. Jeanne and Marie, the two daughters of Antoine and Agnès Vitez, became actors and puppeteers.