Sophie Gardaz

Sophie Gardaz
© BAK / Charlotte Krieger

Sophie Gardaz

A networker in (children’s) theatre

Swiss Performing Arts Award 2022

Sophie Gardaz was born in Lausanne in 1962 and has been director of the city’s Petit Théâtre since 2005. Having trained as an actor, been involved in more than 40 productions and also worked as a stage director, she now devotes herself entirely to theatre for young audiences. Sophie Gardaz programmes a broad spectrum of the performing arts and maintains an important network in French-speaking Switzerland. The Petit Théâtre sees itself as a creative venue for companies in the western part of the country. Prominent figures in Swiss theatre, including dancers such as Philippe Saire with “Hocus Pocus” (2017) and Nicole Seiler with “Wouah!” (2021), learnt to create works for children with her help. The Petit Théâtre stages between three to four premières a year. Sophie Gardaz has always been very active in the community, first with the Syndicat Suisse Romand du Spectacle (SSRS), then with the Union des Théâtres Romands (UTR), the union of theatres in French-speaking Switzerland.

Sophie Gardaz aims to offer young audiences a selection of challenging pieces that reflect the full diversity of the performing arts. Texts are performed for the first time, bold forms that blend painting, object theatre, video and contemporary dance are created, and there is even room for magic and contemporary circus. In early 2022, she teamed up with Michel Toman to stage “Seule dans ma peau d’âne”, a story without a fairytale prince in which a girl learns to say “I”. The venue itself, in the old town at the foot of Lausanne Cathedral, is an unusual place for a theatre stage, with its own garden whose magic draws families from all over Switzerland as well as many school groups. Sophie Gardaz wants to raise the visibility of (children’s) theatre, and works with many venues in western Switzerland to ensure her pieces reach a wide audience.

Sophie Gardaz is in it for the long haul. She probably developed her taste for pilgrimage when playing the role of Alienor in the famous work by René Morax, and it’s stayed with her ever since: her work is an appeal to set off in search of discoveries; and over time, she has invited everyone from the biggest to the smallest to join her on her adventures. But don’t make the mistake of calling what she does “children’s theatre”. She will instantly point out that when you talk about “theatre for young audiences” there is theatre, there is an audience, and the only young thing about it is being young at heart – maintaining that irresistible urge to venture further down life’s pathways and marvel at the new landscape that opens out around each turning.

Georges Grbic, jury member