Princeton Presents Seuls en Scène: A French Theater Feast

Pictured Above: Ludmilla Dabo, accompanied by Moliere Award-winning writer, director, and musician David Lescot, in Portrait de Ludmilla Dabo en Nina Simone. Photo Credit: Tristan Jeanne-Valès, courtesy of Compagnie du Kaïros.



Princeton, NJ – Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the 12th edition of Seuls en Scène French Theater Festival, which will take place from September 8 to 29 at venues across the University’s campus. Most performances will be in French, some with English supertitles. All events are open to the public, and, with the exception of one event, are free, however tickets are required.

Seuls en Scène ushers in the 23rd season of L’Avant-Scène, a French theater troupe of Princeton students. It also celebrates professional theatrical achievements from the past year: many of the invited artists to Seuls en Scène are prominent contributors to contemporary theater in France. The festival is organized by Florent Masse, Professor of the Practice in the Department of French and Italian and artistic director of L’Avant-Scène, and presented in collaboration with the 52nd Edition of Festival d’Automne in Paris.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to continue the festival in-person after virtual editions in 2020 and 2021 and a great anniversary edition in-person last year,” said Masse. “This year we’ll present compelling recent works of contemporary French theater, highlighting diversity and female artists, and offer a record number of ten shows in total! Since its inception in 2012, Seuls en Scène has been a joyful ride every year. I’m delighted by the festival’s trajectory from its humble beginnings to the ways it’s grown over the years, uplifting students and local audiences.”

Pictured Above: The cast of Le Choeur by Fanny de Chaillé, Photo Credit: Tristan Jeanne-Valès. 

The 2023 festival opens with Munstrum Théâtre’s hit solo show from its 2021-2022 season, Les possédés d’Illfurth (The Possessed of Illfurth). In a tour-de-force performance by Lionel Lingelser, the actor pays a vibrant tribute to the part of childhood and innocence where all fantasies are possible, which helps the imagination to transform itself into a refuge—an unshakable fortress in the face of reality. The show will be performed in French with English supertitles in the Wallace Theater at the Lewis Arts complex on September 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. 

On September 9 and 10 at 5 p.m., Fanny de Chaillé returns to Princeton with ten young actors from the 2020 Talent Adami Théâtre initiative and launches them in her idiosyncratic research about performance. A hit of the 49th Edition of Festival d’Automne in Paris, Le Choeur has continued its impact well beyond the festival, touring throughout France, and will be performed in French with English subtitles in the Hearst Dance Theater at the Lewis Arts complex. 

Along with Le Choeur, de Chaillé presents her recent creation, Une autre histoire du théâtre, aimed at presenting a novel history of theater to broader audiences and questioning the artistic commitment of young performers, asking: why do they desire to become actors? De Chaillé brings four young performers who she worked with on Le Choeur. Together, they perform major scenes from classic works and examine their models, or references, to play around with the frontiers between fiction and reality, thereby putting acting and theatrical illusion on display. Une autre histoire du théâtre will be presented September 10 at 3 p.m. in the Hearst Dance Theater and performed in French with English subtitles.

On September 13 at 8 p.m. in the Wallace Theater, Wanjiru Kamuyu brings to life emotional stories of immigration by blending different dance styles with painful memories. In this solo work, An Immigrant’s Story, Kamuyu explores an immigrant’s senses of place and belonging. The performance is in English. 

Pictured Above: Members of the cast of Once the Dust Settles Flowers Bloom. Photo Credit: Olivier Tarpaga, photo courtesy of Serge Daniel Kabore

In Soeurs, three female playwrights, Marine Bachelot Nguyen, Penda Diouf and Karima El Kharraze, read three texts that follow the footsteps of their ancestors. Their epic and intimate crossings invoke Vietnam, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast or Morocco—countries linked to France and its colonial history. This production will be presented on September 14 at 8 p.m. in the Wallace Theater in French with English subtitles. 

Vie et mort de Jacques Chirac, roi des Français by Léo Cohen-Paperman is the first of eight in the Huit rois (“Eight kings”) series, which will sketch the portraits of the eight presidents of France since the advent of the Fifth Republic. Performed in Whitman College Theater on the Princeton campus on September 15 at 8 p.m. and 16 at 5 p.m., this show will be presented in French.

Alone on stage, the actor and playwright of the text, Mathieu Genet, directed by Audrey Bonnet, assumes the role of narrator, character, dancer, stage manager, and museum guide in Sur les chantiers de l’éternité. Genet works from a world of absurd encounters between beings who attempt to sculpt the void, master the present moment, compose a hymn for all of humanity, or build shelters in which to lose themselves. Sur les chantiers de l’éternité will be performed in French on September 16 and 17 at 2:30 p.m. in Whitman College Theater.

First presented at the 2018 Seuls en Scène festival, Portrait de Ludmilla Dabo en Nina Simone returns in a new augmented version in the Wallace Theater. Through the legendary singer’s music and life story, intertwined with personal stories from Dabo’s own life, she charts Simone’s journey from young musical prodigy to her role as a major figure in the civil rights movement. The show will be performed in English on September 16 at 8 p.m. and in French on September 17 at 5 p.m. 

On September 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wallace Theater, the festival presents Place de la République by Clément Hervieu-Léger preceded by A Tribute to Patrice Chéreau. After directing large ensembles, Hervieu-Léger wanted to direct a smaller play and write a text for two of his regular actors in his company, Compagnie des Petits-Champs. Place de la République is an exquisite encounter between strangers who connect one day on Place de la République. Prior to the performance, Hervieu-Léger will read excerpts of Les visages et les corps by Patrice Chéreau as part of a tribute to the late French master director. Both presentations will be in French.

In a new collaboration with McCarter Theatre and the Department of Music, the festival will present Once the Dust Settles Flowers Bloom by Olivier Tarpaga on September 29 at 8 p.m. in McCarter’s Matthews Theatre. With six dancers and five musicians, Tarpaga, the Lester Horton Award-winning choreographer/director of the African Music Ensembles of Princeton University, confronts the tragedy of his homeland of Burkina Faso with a “feminist Africanist” piece that carries the hope that once the dust has settled, flowers will bloom again, and the songs and dances will return. The performance includes a reading in French. Tickets for this festival event are $15-25 and can be purchased through the McCarter box officeOnce the Dust Settles Flowers Bloom is part of the Music Department’s Timbuktu Grooves: The Princeton African Music Festival series.

Tickets are free and required for all of the above performances and available online through University Ticketing. All festival events are held in accessible venues. Learn more about accessibility of parking, routes, and venues. Guests in need of other access accommodations are asked to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date. 

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