Protests mar opening of French theater festival

AVIGNON, France (AP) — Organizers of one of Europe's premier theater festivals are canceling some shows amid a protest movement by cultural workers over changes to their off-season unemployment benefits.

The director of the Festival d'Avignon, Olivier Py, told journalists in Avignon that two plays scheduled for Friday's opening night have been called off.

The CGT union announced a strike, but it's unclear how many workers will take part.

Hundreds of seasonal theater workers and other cultural personnel have demonstrated in recent weeks against a plan by the indebted government to streamline and reduce the unemployment benefits they receive outside performance season. The dispute threatens to disrupt arts festivals this summer.

The Festival d'Avignon in Provence is a three-week smorgasbord of theater, dance and eclectic performances that draws visitors from around the world.

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