One of my favorite things to do when visiting Paris is to see a play, whether at the illustrious Comédie Française or at one of Paris’ many independent theaters. The French have an approach to theater that will seem different to Americans (even theater buffs).
Each season, French directors, set designers and costumers strive to present cutting edge, meaningful works. From one-acts to four-hour sagas, there are many independent theaters that present classic French plays with a modern flair, making them accessible to contemporary audiences. The words of famous French playwrights from the 17th-20th centuries such as Molière, Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Ionesco, Georges Feydeau and Samuel Becket, are preserved in the French social consciousness thanks to regular performances of their works in various Parisian theaters.
Paris boasts over 100 theaters to suit almost any taste in plays, most of which have performances year-round. Of course, the majority of these plays are in French. For those who don’t speak French, audio recordings or simultaneous translations of the play translated into English are sometimes offered, and should be requested when you purchase your ticket. Even if this is not an option, the perceived linguistic barrier will most likely not detract from your overall enjoyment of the ambiance, actors, music, set, and costumes. You may find you end up understanding more than you thought you would!
Ready to give it a try? The next step is to research what shows will be playing while you are in Paris and purchase your tickets. A good idea is to consult a particular theater’s website before you leave for your trip to see if they will be presenting an interesting play during your trip. Once you arrive in Paris, you will be able to find theater listings in English at tourist offices throughout Paris. At any tabac (you’ll recognize them by the narrow red signs with “tabac” in white letters) you can pick up a copy of Figaroscope or Pariscope. Both of these publications contain lists of entertainment events in Paris for the week (including theater, music, dance, and cinema). Portions of both Figaroscope and Pariscope are in English, to cater to the needs of tourists.
Purchasing theater tickets in Paris is relatively simple. Many of the larger hotels sell theater tickets at the front desk. Another option is to buy the ticket directly from the theater box office. I have found that most box offices are staffed with bilingual (or trilingual) individuals who will be able to assist you in English.
In addition, tickets to theater performances and concerts in Paris and the surrounding areas can be purchased at the locations below.
Le Kiosque Théâtre:
To buy tickets at half-price on the day of the show stop by one of the two theater kiosks at Place de la Madeleine (8th arr.) and Esplanade de la Tour Montparnasse (14th arr.) Open Tuesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 7:45pm; and Sunday, 12:30 to 4pm. Anyone under 26 can get even steeper discounts from the theater kiosks at 25 Boulevard Boudon (M° Bastille, 4th arr.) or 91 Boulevard St-Michel (5th arr.)
Tel: 08 25 02 00 20 (bookings by phone Monday through Saturday, 9am to 8pm). Most FNAC store locations around Paris also sell tickets to local events. Forum des Halles (1st arr.), and 19 Avenue de l’Opéra (1st arr.)
Tel: 08 25 02 30 24 (telephone bookings Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm). There are multiple locations around Paris, including inside the Galerie du Carrousel du Louvre (1st arr.) and 52 Avenue des Champs-Elysées (8th arr.)
Below is a partial list of some of my favorite Parisian theaters to get you started.
La Comedie Francais
2, rue de Richelieu
Metro: Line 1 – Louvre Rivoli/Palais Royal
Tel: 01 44 58 15 15
14, rue Favart
Metro: Line 8/9 – station Richelieu Drouot
Tel: 01 42 44 45 46
Theatre du Champs Elysees
15 Avenue Montaigne
Metro: Line 9- station Alma Marceau/Franklin Roosevelt
Tel: 01 49 52 50 50
Theatre du Splendid
48, Rue From Faubourg Saint-Martin
Metro: Line 4/8/9 – station Strasbourg Saint Denis
Tel: 01 42 08 21 93
25, rue Caumartin
Metro: Line 8/9 – station Madeleine Havre Caumartin
Tel: 01 47 42 43 41
Theatre des Blancs Mantetox
15, Rue des Blancs Mantetox
Metro: Line 1/11 – station Hôtel de Ville
Tel: 01 48 87 15 84