Their in-class readings from French plays apparently struck a chord with students who had helped devise the curriculum for the Advanced Topics in French and Francophone Studies class with Professor Barbara Abrams.

For their final project, the students are performing On ne badine pas avec L’amour, or Don’t Mess around with Love.

Author Alfred de Musset’s play is believed to have grown out of a torrid love affair with his muse, the novelist best known by her pseudonym George Sand.

“The students fell in love, for some reason, with this play from the 19th century,” said Abrams.

Students in Abrams’s small class for the most advanced students of French had requested an emphasis on theater. They focused on Théâtre de l'Absurde -- Theater of the Absurd -- but also read plays from the 18th 19th and early 20th centuries.

Professor collaborates with students

“We were allowed to create our own curriculum and take charge as students,” says student Samantha Swartzendruber, who plays Perdican, a man who is pledged to marry his cousin, in the student production.

The two main characters in the play cannot admit to one another that they’re in love, and, while there are some very funny characters, the tale ends tragically.

“This is the first time our students will make public presentation of a play in French,” said Abrams.

French Club involvement

While the six students in the class have memorized their roles, members of the French Club have been invited to read parts of the chorus.

“We also got the French Club involved in advertising and sponsoring refreshments, said Swartzendruber, the club’s vice president.

French theater is becoming a favorite for the club, which, in addition to sponsoring French cinema evenings, poetry readings and outings to French restaurants, brought a theatrical production to campus in cooperation with French consulate and Goethe-Institut.

Devotion to French language

Swartzendruber’s passion for French began in middle school, which was when she first had access to language classes.

“I had a good level of French when I got here and jumped into literature,” says the junior French major, who has studied in Vichy and at the Universite de Paris-Sorbonne through Suffolk University partnerships.

She plans to work in literary translation or to teach English as a second language in a Francophone country when she launches her career after graduating in 2014.

“One reason I came to Suffolk was the strong French language curriculum,” says Swartzendruber, who prefers modern French writers. Her favorite is Amélie Nothomb.

Swartzendruber is working closely with Professor Marjorie Salvodon -- whose academic work is focused on translation and creative writing -- in developing her senior thesis, which entails translation of a short work and analysis of translation technique and themes.

The performance, which takes place at noon on Thursday, April 18, in the Poetry Center in the Mildred Sawyer Library, is open to the campus community.