L’Avant-Scène, the Department of French and Italian's French Theater Workshop formerly known as L’Atelier, 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. Offered exclusively in French, it gives French language students a chance to improve language skills. L’Avant-Scène is composed of two distinct entities, one curricular and the other extra-curricular: the French courses Fre 211, French Theater Workshop, and Fre 311, Advanced French Theater Workshop, cross-listed with the Program in Theater (Thr 211 & Thr 312), and the extra-curricular troupe which performs three to four full-length plays from the classical and modern French theater canon each year. Recent productions included Moliere's "Dom Juan," "L’Avare," "Le Tartuffe" and "Le Misanthrope," Feydeau's "La puce à l'oreille," Koltès' "Roberto Zucco," Lagarce's "Juste la fin du monde," Racine's "Bérénice" and "Britannicus," Musset's "Lorenzaccio," Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac," Corneille’s "L’Illusion comique," Claudel’s "L’Échange," Ionesco’s "La Cantatrice chauve," Beaumarchais’ "Le Mariage de Figaro," and Wajdi Mouawad’s "Incendies." L’Avant-Scène is directed by Florent Masse, a senior lecturer in the Department of French and Italian.

            Since its creation on the Princeton campus in the fall of 2001, L’Avant-Scène has garnered the support of the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Council for the Humanities, the residential college Rockefeller College, the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton Center for French Studies, and the Cultural Services of The French Embassy. 

            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, L’Avant-Scène students have traveled to France annually during L’Avant-Scène in Paris, 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. L’Avant-Scène in Paris, which lasts a full week, takes place over the University intersession period of late January. Students at the Paris National Conservatory for Dramatic Arts (CNSAD), and French theater professionals have also traveled to Princeton to reciprocate the exchanges between USA and France.