L’Avant-Scène, the Department of French and Italian's French Theater Workshop, offers students an original combination of linguistic and dramatic training. Based on the “cours d’interprétation” used by the French conservatories, L’Avant-Scène introduces students to acting techniques and allows them to discover the richness of the French dramatic repertoire. Proposed exclusively in French, it gives French language students, French certificate students, and concentrators, as well as graduate students, a chance to improve language skills and put them in motion. L’Avant-Scène is composed of two distinct entities, one curricular and the other co-curricular: the French courses FRE 211, French Theater Workshop, FRE 311, Advanced French Theater Workshop, FRE 389 Producing Theater: French Festivals Today, and newly created FRE 228 Contemporary French Theater, cross-listed with the Program in Theater of the Lewis Center for the Arts (THR 211, THR 312, THR 389, THR 227), and the co-curricular troupe which performs three to five full-length plays from the classical and modern French theater canon each year. L'Avant-Scène also collaborates with the Italian section of the Department of French and Italian to produce plays or collections of scenes by Italian playwrights. Florent Masse, Senior Lecturer in the Department of French and Italian, directs L’Avant-Scène that he founded in 2001.
At the core of the evolution of L’Avant-Scène at Princeton has been the idea that the demands of the theater and serious acting serve the pedagogical objectives of language learning particularly well (Being heard and understood, pronouncing well, and articulating constituting the fundamentals for an actor). In the context of a foreign language, acting also takes on a new dimension and enables students to experience a foreign culture in their entire body. L’Avant-Scène promotes both the French classical and contemporary repertories and offers students drama training drawn from the French tradition with an emphasis on text.
In addition to producing the great classiques in many diverse venues on campus, L’Avant-Scène students have traveled to France during L’Avant-Scène in Paris and L'Avant-Scène in Avignon, meant to offer the most dedicated students of the program the opportunity to refine their discovery and understanding of French theater through first-hand experience.
Prominent French actors and directors regularly visit Princeton to offer students master classes, teach for a semester, or present their works during Seuls en Scène, Princeton French Theater Festival, the early fall international French theater festival curated by L’Avant-Scène and made possible by a generous partnership with the Lewis Center for the Arts.
L’Avant-Scène and its international initiatives receive support from the French Embassy in the United States, the French American Cultural Exchange (FACE) Foundation, and Institut français. Since its creation on campus in 2001, L’Avant-Scène has nearly produced seventy plays and has grown in popularity in the campus community and francophone communities of central New Jersey and beyond.