L’Avant-Scène Offered a Fully Virtual Fall 2020 Season

This fall 2020, L’Avant-Scène offered a fully remote virtual season. The ninth annual edition of Seuls en Scène, Princeton French Theater Festival, a collaboration between the Department of French and Italian, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and L’Avant-Scène took place digitally from September 10 to September 19. The lineup included video-recordings of shows, live conversations on Zoom with French artists and producers, documentary films, and contents specifically made for Seuls en Scène. The festival featured works by Penda Diouf, Aristide Tarnagda, Mohamed El Khatib, Marion Siéfert, Émilie Rousset, Louise Hémon, Jonathan Capdevielle, Sandy Ouvrier, and Astrid Bayiha.

Seuls en Scène continued its partnership with Festival d’Automne in Paris, created in 1972, one of the premier theater festivals in France. The partnership aims at bringing small-scale productions of Festival d’Automne to Princeton. This year, five of the six shows on offer were recent productions of Festival d’Automne that were presented in Paris. Audience members joined in for this special edition of Seuls en Scène and particularly enjoyed the live conversations with artists on Zoom.

L’Avant-Scène students started rehearsing remotely in early September for the beloved classic On ne badine pas avec l’amour by Alfred de Musset that opened the 2020-21 season in late October. At the end of the rehearsal process, the performance was recorded and then streamed online for four days. Students made great efforts to adapt to the new medium and delivered a convincing performance of the popular play. For everyone involved, it was a rewarding and fun new experience. With virtual backgrounds (recreating the estate and gardens of the home of the character Le Baron), and other creative tools, students rapidly felt at ease in the virtual setting and unleashed their acting talents.

Also in late October, L’Avant-Scéne streamed Une des dernières soirées de carnaval by Carlo Goldoni, directed by French actor and director Clément Hervieu-Léger from the Comédie-Française. The event, organized by Flora Champy and Florent Masse was followed by a remote conversation with Clément Hervieu-Léger who had just visited L’Avant-Scène last academic year as short-term Belknap Fellow in the Humanities and French and Italian. Students enrolled in FRE 221 "The Rise of France: French Literature, Culture and Society from the Beginnings to 1789" & FRE/THR 211 "French Theater Workshop" joined the event and asked Hervieu-Léger questions on his work as director, and other plays that he had previously directed at the Comédie-Française.

FRE/THR 211 students also acted remotely this semester. They presented their final works during Fragments XX, A Student Recital of French Theater Scenes, streamed November 23-25. Like their fellow classmates in L’Avant-Scène, they made great effort throughout the semester to act in a digital environment.  The virtual adaptation and preparation for FRE/THR 211, French Theater Workshop, was made possible this summer by support from The 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education.

At the time of writing, it is still unclear what the rest of the season will bring, but students in L’Avant-Scène and new recruits are ready to continue adapting to the current challenges posed by the pandemic. Next for the troupe is Le Malade imaginaire by Molière, as well as one or two recent contemporary plays.

Masse produced this virtual fall 2020 season of L’Avant-Scène. He directed the student productions and produced and curated the new edition of Seuls en Scène.