March 28, 2019

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater presents Phèdre

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Phèdre, Jean Racine’s classic French play based on ancient Greek and Roman tragedies in a new English translation by Princeton alumnus Marc Decitre. The production features senior J Sansone in the title role and is directed by faculty member Suzanne Agins. Performances are April 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13 at 8:00 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, 91 University Place, on the Princeton University campus.

Racine’s 1677 play written in Alexandrine verse is based on both Euripides’ Greek play Hippolytus and Seneca’s Roman play, Phaedra, or Phèdre in French. The play, set in the ancient Greek city of Troezen, tells the tragic tale of the wife of King Theseus, Phèdre, and her forbidden romantic obsession with her stepson Hippolytus, who despises her. Phèdre, believing Theseus has died while on an extended quest, is encouraged by her servant, Oenone, to convince Hippolytus to take his father’s place — in every way. Hippolytus is disgusted by his stepmother’s seduction and flees. In a plot again encouraged by Oenone, Phèdre falsely accuses Hippolytus of raping her. When Theseus returns from his sojourn and learns of these false and real betrayals while he was away, he exacts his revenge.

Decitre, Princeton Class of 2018, wrote this translation while an undergraduate. Scenes from the script received a workshop reading in October 2017 by the student French theater group L’Avant-Scène during the multi-day arts festival marking the opening of the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Agins describes Decitre’s script as, “a beautiful free-verse English translation that remains faithful to Racine’s structure without trying to be a literal version of the original French rhyming verse.” She notes that Decitre’s sparse and clean language has influenced the bare and exposed design of this production. Decitre has been involved in the production, continuing to develop the script and its language based on what is learned through the rehearsal process. He will host a post-show audience talkback following the April 6 performance.

two actors

In rehearsal for Phèdre are senior J Sansone (left) in the title role and sophomore Chris Villani as Hippolytus. Photo by Hope VanCleaf

Sansone proposed Phèdre as her senior thesis project in the Program in Theater as an exploration of the title character’s alienation as an outsider, a foreigner in a strange place, which Sansone finds very relevant today. She was also drawn by the tragic nature of the story’s themes of home and broken families. She originally read an English translation of the play in a classics/theater cross-listed course, “Greek Tragedy from Ancient Athens to Ferguson.” It was mere happenstance that her friend, Decitre, had just written a new translation of Racine’s play.

Sansone, who is from Philadelphia, is majoring in English and pursuing a certificate in the Program in Theater. She has appeared in Lewis Center productions of GURLS and Picnic at Hanging Rock, and has worked with the student groups Theatre Intime and Princeton Shakespeare Company.

Agins, who is directing, teaches courses in the Program in Theater and has directed a number of plays and musicals at Princeton and is a professional freelance director. Her recent work includes The Heart of Robin Hood by David Farr (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), Pride and Prejudice by Kate Hamill, adapted from Jane Austen (Hangar Theater), Dreamgirls (Cape Fear Regional Theatre, seven BroadwayWorld Awards including Best Musical and Best Direction), the regional premiere of In the Heights (Hangar Theater, five Syracuse Area Live Theater Awards), and The Club by Amy Fox (Rough Cut production at Ensemble Studio Theatre).  Her off-Broadway credits include the world premiere of Radiance by Cusi Cram for the LAByrinth Theater Company and the critically acclaimed world premiere of Jailbait by Deirdre O’Connor for the Cherry Lane Theatre. Agins is the recipient of a 2006 Princess Grace Directing Fellowship and is a member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab.

Other students in the cast include juniors E Harper Jeremijenko-Conley and Abby Spare; sophomores Miranda Allegar, Jacy Duan, Peter Foster, Alexander Deland, Jr., Katharine Matthias, and Chris Villani; and first-year student Molly Bremer.

The production team includes Alithea Phillips, Head of Voice at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, as vocal coach, professional designers Yu-Hsuan Chen as set designer and Noelle Quanci as costume designer, senior Megan Berry as lighting designer, senior Diego Fierros as sound designer, first-year student Kate Semmens as assistant director, first-year student Jane Burdick as stage manager, and senior Siddarth Anand as assistant stage manager. Faculty member Rob Kaplowitz is advising on sound design.

Tickets for Phèdre are $12 general public in advance of show dates, $10 for students, $12 for seniors, and $17 general public purchased the day of performances at the box office. Advance tickets are available through the McCarter box office online at (includes processing fees) or by calling 609-258-2787 and in-person at the Frist Campus Center Ticket Office or Roth Box Office at the Lewis Arts complex.

The Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center is an accessible venue with details available at Assistive listening devices are available upon request when attending a performance. Patrons in need of other access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or for assistance at least two weeks prior to the selected performance.

To learn more about this event, the Program in Theater, and the more than 100 other performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, and lectures presented by the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit

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