One of the top things to do before graduation is to take a trip with a class or club. I’ve known people who have traveled over breaks to South Africa or London to sing or to Venice or China to research. During this past intersession, the period between fall and spring semester, I went to Paris with L’Avant-Scène, the French theater group on campus. We perform plays in French from the traditional French repertoire such as Molière, Feydeau and new classics like Wajdi Mouawad and Jean-Luc Lagarce.

Florent Masse, the French professor in charge of this troupe, has been taking newcomers to the troupe to Paris since 2004. Normally, there are about five or six people on this trip, but this year there were only three of us. So, we invited a few students studying abroad in Paris to join us at some of our activities. The schedule for the week consisted of drama instruction, activities for cultural enrichment and a play every night.

We spent some time walking around Paris, visiting the Louvre and enjoying macarons, hot chocolate and crêpes. Most of our days, however, were spent at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique (CNSAD). There, we interacted with aspiring thespians and famous professors who helped us delve more deeply into our work. We had the pleasure of participating in a 3-hour dance class and several other theater classes that focused on character development and movement on stage. In the middle of the trip, we were able to watch a class on masks. It was quite an invigorating experience to perform alongside these energetic French actors.

Every night, we went to plays at some of the best theaters in Paris such as La Comédie Française. We saw a total of eight plays. Our group preferred Molière’s hysterical Les Fourberies de Scapin at La Comédie Française and the heart-wrenching Saigon performed at the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe. After the play, we chatted with the actors. We met some stars of French theater: Loic Corbery, Claude Mathieu and even Xavier Gallais. All of them, despite being extremely accomplished and talented, were extremely humble and excited to interact with us and answer our questions.

I could not have made this voyage without the support of Florent Masse and Princeton. It’s often said here that Princeton opens doors. This was certainly true of this week.

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