Princeton University's France Global Seminar on French Theater Today

September 4, 2016 | By French Culture Arts
Princeton University's France Global Seminar entitled French Theater Today: In Practice and Performance in Paris and at the Avignon Theater Festival, took place from June 11 to July 23, 2016. Coordinated by Florent Masse, it introduced students to the rich history of French theater, to its traditional and contemporary scene, as well as to the vibrant Avignon Festival.  Florent Masse is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of French and Italian and Director of L'Avant-Scène, the French Theater Workshop. He is the Artistic Director of Seuls en Scene, Princeton French Theater Festival.
 
Sam Gravitte, Princeton Class of 2017,  shares his impressions:
 
I was incredibly lucky to learn about Princeton's Global Seminar program at the beginning of my junior year. I applied for the course because I had never been abroad, and because the seminar that Professor Florent Masse offered - French Theatre Today - was the perfect marriage of my academic, personal, and professional interests. Because I play lacrosse (an American sport) during the academic year, I was never afforded the opportunity to take a semester abroad. But the Global Seminar program was a dream come true. I'm an anthropology major with certificates in theater and music theater, so the seminar neatly tied French culture and theatre together in a way that perfectly mirrored my studies at Princeton.
 
I count myself very lucky to have begun learning the French acting style and language in the country and surrounded by actual practitioners such as the teachers and students of the Conservatoire. As we studied, French styles of acting seem to value textual work above psychological realism or any western methods that I had been aware of before this summer. It taught me to take my time and that I really had to understand what I was saying. I had to learn each word in the French texts before I could even begin working with a scene partner. Luckily the wonderful PhD candidate Macs Smith was around, along with Professor Masse, to help with the language and the rhythm of speech.
 
We saw over thirty shows with the seminar, and when you see that much theatre in such a condensed period of time, it is much easier to notice patterns and themes. Especially at Avignon, during the international theater festival, I think it was easier to recognize themes that were emerging consistently in the works we saw - among them the rise of fascism in our globalized world, the growing role of technology in art and culture, and the question of individual identity in our globalized and society. Productions in Avignon were more political and steeped in meaning than any theatre I had seen. 
 
During a discussion with the director of the festival, Olivier Py, he told us, "In regular theatre you leave a show and think about it. In Avignon you leave a show and talk about it." Shows that we saw sparked arguments and epistemological discussions throughout the town. It was theatre theater like I had never seen, theatre that not only brought up issues but took hard stances on them. It was incredibly inspiring as an artist. I saw shows like Les Damnes or Angelica Liddell's ¿Qué haré yo con esta espada? that left me confused, angry, and exhausted. But it was these shows, the ones that made me uncomfortable, that I thought the most about and that challenged my values as a theatre-maker and audience member. The French have an interesting distinction in theater - between what they see as merely "entertainment" and what they see as "art." It made me want to make work that fell under that second category, shows that people would leave buzzing with excitement, as we so often did in our six weeks. 
 
The productions themselves were rounded out by our work with Professor Masse and by the stimulating conversations we had with a long list of impressive directors, actors, policy makers, and French citizens. The people we met with were enough to make any theatre person jealous - Olivier Py, Guillaume Gallienne, Sandy Ouvrier, Louis Schweitzer, Thomas Ostermeier, Aurélie Fillippetti, and Séverine Chavrier, just to name a handful. They welcomed and challenged our perceptions of French theatre, and our discussions led us from technology and history to French Republicanism and race and everywhere in between. I am so thankful to have had the chance to engage theatre-makers and shakers in such an intimate context. Professor Masse and the entire seminar afforded us one remarkable opportunity after another in Paris and Avignon. It was truly a fulfilling experience, a first time in France that I will never forgot.
 
 
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Sign in or register to post comments.
1/3
MORE IN VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS
event

Anne Nguyen at Crossing the Line Festival 2016

Sept 23 - Oct 1, 2016
Multiple locations and Gibney Dance - Agnès Varis Center for the Performing Arts
280 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
event

Hubert Robert, 1733–1808

June 26 - October 2, 2016
The National Gallery of Art
6th St. and Constitution Ave. NW
Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565
event

Seuls en Scène 2016: Princeton University's French Theater Festival

Sept 22 - Oct 5, 2016
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
08544
event

Kader Attia's 'Ghardaïa' featured at the Guggenheim

Apr 29 - Oct 5, 2016
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue
New York, NY
event

Collection #2 "Human | Nature" at Chamber New York

May 19 - Oct 6, 2016
Chamber
515 W. 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
event

MONCHICHI by Company Wang Ramirez at BAM

Oct 5 - 8, 2016
BAM Fisher
321 Ashland Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
1/3
recomended for you
event

Kader Attia's 'Ghardaïa' featured at the Guggenheim

Apr 29 - Oct 5, 2016
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue
New York, NY
event

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio at the MET

Oct 7, 2016 - Jan 16, 2017
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY
event

Dreamland: Immersive cinema and art 1905-2016 at the Whitney Museum

Oct 28, 2016 - Feb 5, 2017
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
New York, NY 10014