This production is about the life of Nina Simone — pianist, singer, and militant advocate for civil rights. It is a sublime and tragic journey, an epic of 70 years, ending in almost complete solitude in France in 2003. Great-great-granddaughter of an Amerindian and an African-American enslaved person, she is heir to four centuries of American colonial history.

Working with a team of African-American and French performers for two years, David Geselson tackles the gruesome conquest of the New World by European colonizers, focusing in particular on the history of African-Americans. Through the fate of Nina Simone, Silence and Fear questions our contemporary Western heritage. Written and performed in English and French, the show is a testament to the meeting of two worlds and two legacies, French-European and African-American.

This is David Geselson’s second appearance at Seuls en Scène. He presented Doreen in 2018.

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The screening of this filmed performance is free and open to Princeton students, faculty and staff. Advance registration is required.

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The filmed performance is presented in English and French with English subtitles. Visit our Venues and Studios section for accessibility information at our various locations. Attendees in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at least two weeks in advance at




“After creating En Route-Kaddish in 2015, I came across a biography of Nina Simone written by the French-Swiss journalist David Brun-Lambert. This was after I had listened to Nina Simone’s complete RCA recordings from the sixties and seventies. I knew her music but next to nothing about her story. I discovered an epic life, a seventy-year saga that ends in near-total solitude in France in 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet. Her story speaks of both a passionate quest for recognition and a vital political struggle that still resonates today. It seemed to me that the way her life is tied to history was an opportunity to work on African-American history. A history of conquest and struggles for freedom, a history of wounds too, of the scars they leave behind in bodies, and that are passed down from one generation to the next, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nina Simone, a figure nearly too iconic for us to get close to, may well be impossible to represent on a theater stage. It is a risky gamble to ask someone to act like Nina Simone, to sing like Nina Simone: the result will always pale in comparison with the reality. Yet there is something extraordinarily compelling about this challenge. Because she is a direct heir to a significant part of the history of the United States and a major part of our shared history, she is also the vehicle for what we have to carry and question today.”

David Geselson


david stands by windows with hands in jean pocketsDavid Geselson wrote, directed and performed Doreen, winner of the Critics’ Prize 2017 for the Best French play (based on Letter to D. by André Gorz), En Route-Kaddish, Lettres non-écrites. He wrote and directed Le silence et la peur. He directed Eli Eli by Thibault Vinçon and Les Insomniaques by Juan Mayorga, Poing by Pauline Peyrade at Teatro Es-pañol of Madrid. He will direct La Bohème at the Opéra de Nancy. He published Lettres non-écrites (Unwritten Letters) at Le Tripode publishing. He recently acted in Bovary under the direction of Tiago Rodrigues created in 2016 at Théâtre de la Bastille and will act again under his direction in Le Choeur des amants, created in 2021 and in La Cerisaie by Anton Tcheckov, created in July 2021 at Festival d’Avignon in La Cour d’hon-neur of the Palais des papes. He was trained at the École du Théâtre National de Chaillot, the École de théâtre Les Enfants Terribles and the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique. He has acted on the stage under the direction of Brigitte Jaques in La Marmite (Plautus’ Aulularia), Cécile Garcia-Fogel in Foi, Amour, Espérance (Odön Von Horváth’s Faith, Love and Charity), Gilles Cohen in Théâtre à la campagne by David Lescot, David Girondin-Moab and Muriel Trem-bleau in Le Golem (a stage adaptation of Gustav Meyrink), Christophe Rauck in Le Revizor (Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector), Gabriel Dufay in La Ville (Yevgeni Grishkovetz), Jean-Pierre Vincent in Meeting Massera by Jean-Charles Massera, Volodia Serre in Les Trois Soeurs (Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters), Juliette Navis and Raphaèle Bouchard in a collective work entitled Mont-Royal, and Jean-Paul Wenzel in Tout un homme. He has also acted on the small and big screen, under the direction of Elie Wajeman in Alyah and Les Anarchistes (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs – Cannes 2012 and Semaine de la critique – Cannes 2015 ), François Ozon in Grâce à Dieu, Isabelle Czajka in La Vie domestique, Olivier de Plas in QI, Rodolphe Tissot in Ainsi-soient-ils (seasons 2 and 3), Vincent Garanq in l’Enquête, as well as in short films direc-ted by Muriel Cravatte, Antonin Peretjatko, Marie Donnio and Etienne Labroue.

Founded in 2009 by David Geselson, Compagnie Lieux-dits is primarily concerned with the creation of contemporary texts and experimental works for the theatre. The junction between fiction and non-fiction is at the heart of our work. The tension between the power of politics to intimately affect and transform individuals, and the way in which they can then transform history in their turn, is a common thread in our productions. At the center of our vision, is a powerful dynamic between a writer and a team of actors focused on creating texts and works for the theatre that tackle current political, philosophical and poetic issues.

Read an interview with Geselson and journalist Amelia Parenteau in French Culture »




Written and directed by David Geselson
Assistant Director — Shady Nafar
Performed by Dee Beasnael, Jared McNeill, Kim Sullivan, Laure Mathis and Elios Noël
Set design — Lisa Navarro, assisted by Margaux Nessi
Lighting design — Jérémie Papin, assisted by Marine Le Vey
Video design — Jérémie Scheidler, assisted by Marina Masquelier
Sound design — Loïc Le Roux
Costume design — Benjamin Moreau
Costume construction — Sophie Manac’h
General stage manager — Sylvain Tardy
Collaboration — Dee Beasnael, Craig Blake, Loïc Le Roux, Laure Mathis, Benjamin Moreau, Shady Nafar, Lisa Navarro, Elios Noël, Jérémie Papin, Jérémie Scheidler, Kim Sullivan, Sylvain Tardy
Translation — Nicholas Elliott Jennifer Gay
Set construction — Decor construction of Théâtre de la Cité – CDN Toulouse Occitanie
Production Manager — Noura Sairour
Tour manager and press relations — AlterMachine I Carole Willemot
Press relations — Irène Gordon-Brassart

Premiere on January 2020 at Théâtre de Lorient – CDN

Produced by Compagnie Lieux-dits

Coproduced by Théâtre de Lorient, centre dramatique national, Le Canal – Théâtre du Pays de Redon, Théâtre National de Bretagne – Rennes, Théâtre de la Cité – CDN Toulouse Occitanie, Théâtre d’Arles, scène conventionnée d’intérêt national – art et création, Théâtre de la Bastille, Espaces Pluriels, Scène conventionnée danse – Pau, L’empreinte scène nationale Brive/Tulle, Théâtre Le Rayon Vert, Scène conventionnée d’intérêt national – art en territoire de Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, Le Gallia Théâtre, scène conventionnée d’intérêt national – art et création de Saintes, La Comédie de Reims – Centre Dramatique National, Théâtre des Quatre saisons, Gradignan, Théâtre de Choisy-le-Roi – Scène conventionnée d’Intérêt national – Art et création pour la diversité linguistique en coopération avec PANTHEA, La Rose des Vents, Scène nationale Lille Métropole Villeneuve d’Ascq, CDN Besançon Franche-Comté, Théâtre de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Scène nationale, Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II, Lisbonne, Portugal

With the help of the ministère de la Culture, Région Île-de-France, Spedidam, the french Institute within the frame of its program Théâtre Export, FACE Foundation Contemporary Theater, Harlem Stage – New York – United States

Thanks to Théâtre Ouvert – Centre national des Dramaturgies Contemporaines, La Chartreuse de Villeneuve-Lès-Avignon – centre national des écritures du spectacle, and to Théâtre de l’Aquarium Residencies at CDN de Normandie-Rouen

Compagnie Lieux-dits is accredited by the ministère de la Culture – DRAC Île-de-France. The text Silence and Fear is published by Lieux-Dits publishing.


The French Theater Festival is sponsored by Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, L’Avant-Scène, Department of French and Italian, Humanities Council, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Study (PIIRS), Department of Art and Archaeology, Department of Comparative Literature, Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society, Center for French Studies, and Rockefeller College. International sponsors include Festival d’Automne in Paris, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Education Department of the French Embassy, Institut français, and the French American Cultural Exchange Foundation.

Presented By

  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Department of French and Italian
  • L’Avant-Scène