What Is a French Scene in Theater?

In a French scene, the entrance or exit of a character divides the beginning and the end of the scene. This is different from other scene divisions, which may use a change in background, lighting or stage curtains to signal a scene change.

The French scene was popular during the 17th century when there were very few theatres in France. This caused theatre performers to use houses, hotels or other sites that were not proper venues for playacting. Many of these makeshift theatres were extremely small and did not have the necessary space for set props, extravagant backgrounds and stage equipment. Therefore, actors devised the French scene to solve the matter of signalling a change in scene without extensive production equipment.

The technique became so prominent in French theatre during this period that French play writers began creating plays that did not have scenes or acts. Instead, they designed plays around a series of continuous actions within a single setting to account for the French scene style of playacting. The development of the French scene also gave rise to the French scene template. It was important for stage managers and directors to keep track of their cast as the actors continuously entered and exited the stage at a rapid pace. The template was a list of all the characters of the play and the times that they entered and exited the stage.