Celebrated French theater artists converge onstage at Princeton University. See a full schedule here.
(Princeton, NJ) Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the fourth annual Seuls en Scène French Theater Festival, which will take place from September 24 through October 24 at venues across the University’s campus. All performances are free and open to the public. While performances will be in French, three productions will include English subtitles: Jaz, Le 20 novembre, and De mes propres mains.
Marking the launch of the fifteenth season of the student French theater workshop L’Avant-Scène, Seuls en Scène brings celebrated French actors and directors to the University and the local community. This year’s festival features an exceptional line-up, including a play from the 2012 Avignon Theater Festival, a preview of a new production to premiere at the 2016 Avignon Festival, and works by some of the greatest contemporary playwrights in Europe and the Francophone world. Seuls en Scène has been organized by Florent Masse, Senior Lecturer in the Department of French and Italian and director of L’Avant-Scène.
Astrid Bayiha, Lena Paugam, Mathurin Voltz, Bertrand Usclat and Pauline Clément, recent graduates of the Paris National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts (CNSAD), will perform works begun during their studies. Seuls en Scène provides these early career artists with the chance to continue refining their work and to perform internationally for the first time. Jeune Théâtre National of the French Ministry of Culture, the organization that supports recent graduates of the leading national French drama schools, will partner with the Festival in order to bring these promising artists to Princeton.
Kicking off the festival, Lena Paugam will directMathurin Voltz in Le 20 novembre by celebrated contemporary Swedish playwright Lars Norén on September 24 and 25 at 6:00 p.m. Based on the diary of 18-year-old Sebastian Bosse, who entered his former middle school with a firearm and explosives in the German city of Emsdetten on November 20, 2006, the play gives voice to social outcasts and invites audiences to reflect on the darkest aspects of contemporary societies. The site-specific performance was created last spring in Brittany and will be presented in a classroom on campus with limited seating.
Ayouba Ali will direct Astrid Bayiha and Caroline Rabaliatti in Jaz on September 24 and 25 at 8:00 p.m. Written by Ivorian writer Koffi Kwahulé, currently one of the most popular African playwrights, Jaz tells the story of the title character who lives in an abandoned housing project with a clogged communal bathroom that no one will repair. She seems to be responding to a cross-examination, but there is no interlocutor present. Jaz has lost her identity and her virginity following a rape in a public bathroom. Reflecting the jazz music that she personifies, Jaz tries to extricate herself from the resulting chaos. Jaz tackles the question of how to reconstruct the self, to voice wrongs, and to denounce them by fully exposing them.
Comme la lune, a fairy tale for teenagers as well as adults, will be performed on September 29 and 30 at 7:00 p.m. A new play by Bertrand Usclat and Pauline Clément,Comme la lune comes directly from Studio Hébertot in Paris, where it has been in development and performance this past summer. Clément takes on the performance of all characters in the play, starting with Princess Daisy, who will soon come of age but suffers from a quirky and “off the wall” personality. A constant target of mockery and blame from her guardian, she endures a life for which she is not prepared.
On September 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., Rodolphe Dana, the artistic director of Collectif Les Possédés and the newly appointed head of Théâtre de Lorient – CDN, will perform in Loin d’eux, the story of a family coping with the grief of a child who has left home. Based on the first novel by celebrated contemporary writer Laurent Mauvignier,Loin d’Eux lies at the border between theater and literature. Dana and his director David Clavel focus on the first part of the novel, which crystalizes the family’s tensions, fears, and doubts.
Avant-garde director Robert Cantarella will performFaire le Gilles, a show based on seminars given by French philospher Gilles Deleuze about French philosopher Michel Foucault. The production was a hit of the 2012 Avignon Festival, and will be performed at Princeton on September 28 and 29 at 4.30 p.m.
The musical Ajax, qu’on me donne un ennemi, based on German playwright Heiner Müller’s 1995 play Ajax for example, will be performed on October 2 and 3 at 8:00 p.m. Head of Nouveau théâtre de Montreuil Mathieu Bauer, directs, orchestrates and plays drums for this poetic sound performance by veteran actor André Wilms, backed by two other musicians, Sylvain Cartigny and Lazare Boghossian. This performance dissolves the barriers between theater, music, image and film – an approach developed by Nouveau théâtre de Montreuil. Wilms’ career spans decades, including collaboration with international directors such as Klaus Michael Grüber, Bernard Sobel, Heiner Goebbels, Ann Bogart, Georges Lavaudant, Matthias Langhoff, Jean-Pierre Vincent, Deborah Warner, and Jacques Lassalle, as well as a prolific career as a film actor.
Renowned playwright, director, and head of T2G-Théâtre de Gennevilliers Pascal Rambert will direct leading French actor/director Arthur Nauzyciel, head of Centre Dramatique National Orléans/Loire/Cher, in De mes propres mains on October 10 at 8 p.m. and October 11 at 5 p.m. Once every ten years, Rambert stages a new version of his play, most recently at a festival dedicated to his works at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, featuring some of the most prominent artists in French theater today. De mes propres mains, a classic Rambertian monologue, revolves around an obsession with the self. The actor injects himself into Rambert’s text one drop at a time. Rambert and Nauzyciel’s productions have toured the world and both artists have been regular visitors to the tri-state region, performing often at the French Institute Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line festival.
Following Rambert and Nauzyciel’s visit, students in L’Avant-Scène will perform Rambert’s Lac, a series of monologues directed by Masse, on October 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. Lac, written for 15 aspiring actors, will enable students to directly experiment with Rambert’s voice and aesthetics and will give them the chance to rehearse with him the week of his visit.
The team that brought Projet Luciole to Princeton last year will close the Festival with a weeklong residency. Judith Henry, Nicolas Bouchaud, and Nicolas Truong, will return to Princeton to start work on their next production, Interview, which will premiere in July 2016 at the Avignon Theater Festival. Their residency will culminate in a 50-minute staged reading of Interview on Saturday, October 24, at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. A popular journalistic genre, the interview is an inexhaustible form for dramatic situations, hence the team’s desire to create a play centered on this particular material. Following in the footsteps of Projet Luciole, Interview will also be a way for Truong, a reporter at Le Monde, to tap into his own experience. Through a series of seemingly disparate sequences, Interview aims to dramatize two different perspectives of interviewing: the subject and the interviewer.
Midway through the Festival, on October 8 at 7:30 p.m. in East Pyne Hall, Room 010, Marie Raymond, former head of theater and dance at Institut français, which is affiliated with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Masse will discuss the Festival and the place of French theater internationally. Before heading the theater and dance section of Institut français, Raymond had a long career as administrator of public theaters and independent theatrical companies. Her extensive knowledge of the field and of artists will feed a passionate conversation on contemporary French theater. She has also been a close consultant and a strong advocate of the Princeton French Theater Festival in France. The conversation will be in French and is open to the public.
In conjunction with the Festival, Princeton students will present a reading of Michel Vinaver’s Bettencourt Boulevard: A Story of France, on September 26 at 2:30 p.m., in the Rockefeller College Common Room. Translated and directed by actor/director Gabriella Maione, the play revisits the famed political scandal involving L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and high level French officials, offering a caustic look at contemporary French history.
This edition of the festival introduces new partnerships with New York City French cultural organizations and institutions. At the French Institute Alliance Française in Manhattan (FIAF), the artists of Seuls en Scène will introduce a few of the films presented during Cinésalon Screen/Play (Tuesday evenings in September and October). This fall, the topic for the series is “theater in cinema.” A detailed schedule of events can be found online at www.fiaf.org. On October 20 the French Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York will host a staged reading of Arthur Nauzyciel’s English adaptation of Splendid’s by Jean Genet. Performed last January at Centre Dramatique National Orléans/Loiret/Cher with an all male cast of mostly American actors, the production benefited from support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Abrons Arts Center, the Pioneer Works Center for Art of Innovation, and Institut français.
Discussion with the artistic teams of the shows will follow each performance. During their visits, Festival artists will offer master classes for Princeton students in relation to their current theatrical productions. They will also participate in Program in Theater classes and the French Theater Workshop course.
Masse, who curates the Festival, was trained as an actor and director at Lille National Theater under Daniel Mesguich. He later pursued his theater studies at Amherst College as a Levy-Despas Fellow and a teaching assistant in the Department of French. It is there that he originated L’Avant-Scène, a program which combines language and dramatic training. He has directed more than 40 full-length productions of canonical and new works of French theater.
Upcoming L’Avant- Scène productions include Dieu du carnage by Yasmina Reza at the Princeton University Art Museum on December 4 and 5, Le Petit chaperon rouge by Joel Pommerat, and J’étais dans ma maison et j’attendais que la pluie vienne by Jean-Luc Lagarce at the Rocky-Mathey theater on December 9 and 10, Lucrèce Borgia by Victor Hugo in February, and Le Menteur by Pierre Corneille in the Chancellor Green Rotunda in March.
The Festival is being presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène with support through the Lewis Center’s Arts Initiative Partners program, which annually seeks unique arts partnership projects with other university departments and affiliated groups and individuals. This year’s Festival is also made possible by grants from Institut français and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Additional support is provided by Princeton University’s Department of French and Italian, the Council of the Humanities, the Department of Music, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), the Department of Art and Archaeology, the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies with support of the Stanley J. Seeger ’52 Hellenic Fund, Rockefeller College and Department of African American Studies, as well as Jeune Théâtre National (JTN).
Most Festival performances will take place in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. Admission to all events is free, but reservations are strongly recommended and can be sent to email@example.com, Subject Line: “Festival.”