August 29, 2014

Celebrated French theater artists converge onstage at Seuls en Scène – Princeton French Theater Festival

The Lewis Center for the Arts, the Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present Princeton University’s third Seuls en Scène – French Theater Festival from September 15 through October 11, at venues across the University’s campus. All performances will be in French and are free and open to the public.

The Festival brings celebrated French actors and directors to the University and the local community. This year’s festival includes a hit from the 2013 Avignon Theater Festival, a preview of a new monologue to premiere in France in November, and rarely staged texts by Knut Hamsun, Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, and Louis Jouvet. Discussions with the artistic teams will follow a number of the performances. Marking the launch of the 14th season of the student French theater workshop L’Avant-Scène, the Festival has been organized by the workshop’s director, Florent Masse, Senior Lecturer in Princeton’s Department of French and Italian.

Nicolas Bouchaud and Judith Henry will perform Projet Luciole (Project Firefly), a highlight of the 2013 Avignon Theater Festival, on September 17 and 18 at 8:00 p.m. Projet Luciole is created and directed by Nicolas Truong, a journalist and editor at Le Monde with a particular interest in the relationship between theater and ideas. Featuring texts by such writers Theodor W. Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, Gilles Deleuze, George Orwell, Jacques Rancière, and Jaime Semprun, Projet Luciole explores a philosophical theater that emphasizes the energy and vivacity of critical thought that seeks to help us comprehend and live in the modern world.

The Festival will open on September 15 at 4:30 p.m. in East Pyne Hall, Room 010 with a conversation between Truong and Masse on the development of Projet Luciole and Truong’s longtime contribution as a director and moderator of the intellectual debates at the Avignon Theater Festival. The conversation will be in French and open to the public.

Arthur Nauzyciel, the Artistic Director of the National Theater Center of Orléans (CDN Orléans/Loiret/Centre), and a leading French director will direct Faim (Hunger) by Knut Hamsun on October 1 and 2 at 8:00 p.m. Known for his cross-disciplinary approach and transnational collaborations, Nauzyciel’s productions have toured the world. He has directed several shows in the United States with American actors, productions that later toured France. He has been a frequent director at the French Institute Alliance Française “Crossing the Line Festival” in New York. He will return to the tri-state area with the critically acclaimed Faim, an adaptation for the stage of the 1890 novel by Norwegian author and Nobel Prize recipient Knut Hamsun. At the intersection of reading and performance, the monologue Faim is in part an autobiographical tale of the terrifying descent of a man who wanders the streets – not unlike the anonymous faces who populate today’s cities. Xavier Gallais, a well-known French actor, makes his Princeton debut portraying this outcast of society. Gallais has engineered the adaptation of Hamsun’s novel with his longtime artistic collaborator Florient Azoulay. Faim was first presented at the Théâtre de La Madeleine in Paris before being part of the 2013-2014 season at the CDN in Orléans. This production will be accompanied by English subtitles.

Benjamin Lazar represents a new generation of directors whose unique aesthetics have begun to receive critical recognition. Lazar, who has developed a reputation as a specialist in baroque theater, will direct and perform L’Autre Monde ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World or the States and Empires of the Moon) on October 4 at 8:00 p.m. and October 5 at 5:00 p.m. Lazar created the stage adaptation of this rarely performed story by Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac in which a man strives to go to the moon, convinced that it is a world comparable to our own. Cyrano is best known to American audiences as a character in a play by Edmond Rostand, but Rostand’s Cyrano was based on a real-life 17th century French author. Musicians Florence Bolton and Benjamin Perrot, co-founders of the baroque music ensemble La Rêveuse, will accompany Lazar on stage. L’Autre Monde ou les États et Empires de la Lune was first created in 2008 and has since been widely performed. Lazar returns to Princeton for this production, having visited campus last spring to meet with a group of artists and scholars in Princeton’s Program in Latin American Studies and to teach a master class for L’Avant-Scène students.

The Compagnie des Petits-Champs (whose production L’Épreuve by Marivaux was part of Seuls en Scène 2013) will return to Princeton to present Le Voyage en Uruguay (The Trip to Uruguay) by Clément Hervieu-Léger on October 9 and 10 at 8:00 p.m., and Répertoires: A Staged Reading based on the Drama Classes of Louis Jouvet at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique on October 11 at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Both shows will be performed at Whitman College Class of 1970 Theater.

In Le Voyage en Uruguay, Hervieu-Léger, a member of the Comédie-Française, revisits the story of an ancestor who brought Norman cattle from across the sea in order to establish a livelihood in a new country. Actor and director Daniel San Pedro, who co-founded the Compagnie des Petits-Champs with Hervieu-Léger, will direct Le Voyage en Uruguay, which is at its core a family history. Guillaume Ravoire, a recent graduate of the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique, will perform this newly written monologue, which will premiere in Princeton before opening in November in France.

Compagnie des Petits-Champs’ week-long residency will conclude with a staged reading featuring the company’s actors and directors. Comédie-Française member Loïc Corbery, will return to Princeton alongside Audrey Bonnet, a renowned stage performer who won the Best Actress Award in 2013 at les Palmarès du Théâtre, the French equivalent of the Tony Awards. Corbery often collaborates with Hervieu-Léger who recently directed him in the role of Alceste in Le Misanthrope at the Comédie-Française. Bonnet is a member of the Compagnie des Petits-Champs. Last season, she led the company’s production of Yerma by Frederico Garcia Lorca, directed by San Pedro. Répertoires will highlight excerpts from classes by Louis Jouvet, a renowned director, actor and master teacher at the Conservatoire and one of the premiere artists of the French theater in the years before the Second World War. A selection of classical scenes by Racine, Molière and Beaumarchais will complement Jouvet’s texts.

During the Festival the visiting artists will offer master classes and coaching for Princeton students, as well as participate in theater classes.

Masse, who curates the Festival, was trained as an actor and director at Lille National Theater under Daniel Mesguich and later pursued theater studies at Amherst College as a Levy-Despas Fellows and teaching assistant in the Department of French. While at Amherst he originated L’Avant-Scène, which combines linguistic and dramatic training. He has directed more than 30 student productions of both recitals of classical French theater scenes and full-length plays of some of the most important works in the French theatrical canon.

Upcoming L’Avant- Scène productions include La Musica Deuxième by Marguerite Duras and Antigone by Anouilh at the Princeton University Art Museum on November 15 and 16; Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand in the Chancellor Green Rotunda on December 4; and excerpts from Joel Pommerat’s Cercles Fictions in January.

This fall, the Council of the Humanities, the Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will host another member of the Comédie-Française, Pierre Niney, the youngest pensionnaire to join the Comédie-Française (at the age of 21) and now a star of the French stage and screen. He recently portrayed French designer Yves Saint-Laurent in the biopic Yves Saint-Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert. During his visit, Niney will direct a master class for the students of L’Avant-Scène and visit theater classes. There will also be conversations between Niney and Masse that will be free and open to the public. Niney first visited Princeton as a student while studying at the Paris National Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

The Festival is a collaboration between the Lewis Center, the Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène through the Lewis Center’s Arts Initiative Partners program, which annually supports unique arts partnership projects with other University departments and affiliated groups and individuals. This year’s Festival is made possible by a grant from FACE, the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, through its French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater. Additional support is provided by Princeton University’s Council of the Humanities, the Center for French Studies, the Department of Art and Archaeology, the Department of Music, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, as well as the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Institut français, and ODIA Normandie.

Most Festival performances will take place in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. The productions by Compagnie des Petits-Champs will be performed at the Whitman College Class of 1970 Theater. Admission to all events is free but reservations are strongly recommended by sending an email to, Subject Line: “Festival.” Further information about L’Avant-Scène can be found at For more information on all of the Festival events, visit our Events page.

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