On a dimly lit stage, almost drowned out by loud electronic music, two women recount interview fragments from Rwandan rape victims in Dorothée Munyaneza’s critically-acclaimed “Unwanted.”
A play depicting the horrific experiences of Rwandan women with abuse and rape, “Unwanted” is a blend of interview fragments, dance pieces, and unorthodox musical performances which are set to unnerve and challenge audiences.
Making its way straight from New York City’s Baryshnikov Arts Center to Princeton, “Unwanted” joined a handful of other French productions such as “Le Début de l’A” and “Letzlove” at this year’s in Princeton.
Senior lecturer in the department of French and Italian and director of l’Avant Scène Florent Masse organized this year’s sixth edition of the annual French theater festival, which ran Sept.15-30, as part of the University’s French theater workshop. This year, the festival brought both well-established actors and directors such as Nicolas Bouchaud as well as rising stars like Dorothée Munyaneza to the University to showcase their work.
Masse said he was happy overall with how the festival turned out.
“I am delighted with the festival and its offerings,” Masse said. “The audience response was great, and the actors themselves appreciated coming to Princeton. It was a great festival.”
Masse said that he was especially happy about the audience reception. “When you bring seven to eight shows, as a producer you hope for the best and that they will be enjoyed, so this year was great because every show was appreciated.”
He has been organizing Seuls en Scène since 2012, when it emerged as a continuation of the exchanges that L’Avant Scène had been organizing with the Paris National Conservatory. He said that in 2011, he was impressed by one of their showcases and decided to invite them to perform at the University.
The featured plays ranged from modern adaptations of Greek tragedies to innovative productions from the latest Festival d’Avignon. The majority were staged at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at the Lewis Center for the Arts, though a few performances were held at the Butler Amphitheater and the Whitman Theater. The former provided an especially original open-air venue for “Prometheus Bound” and “The Suppliants.”
Most pieces in the showcase involved only a couple of actors and minimal set design. The primary draw of the performances themselves as well as individual plays’ stagings attracted a mixed audience of students and members of the local Francophone community from central New Jersey. Indeed, audiences included both expats and native French speakers.
Jivahn Moradian ’20 attended the festival and said he was impressed by “Interview,” which starred renowned French actors Judith Henry and Nicolas Bouchaud.
“There were only two actors on the scene at all times, and they conducted an impressive performance,” he said. “The show intermixed some thought-provoking scenarios that questioned what an interview is, how one should be carried out, how it differs from regular conversation [...], with well-timed audience participation and numerous hilarious moments!”
According to Masse, organization is already underway for next year’s edition of the festival, with plans to invite recent Paris National Conservatory graduates as well as a number of new and innovative plays.