The 2014-2015 HWS Theatre season opened with “Tartuffe” by Jean Baptiste Poquelin Molière in an exhilarating new translation by Ranjit Bolt in Bartlett Theatre. Director of the show, Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May set the stage against an inventive backdrop to give the classical comedy a contemporary bite. The show opened on Thursday and also ran on Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25.
One of Molière’s most-produced comedies, Tartuffe examines hypocrisy as the title character capitalizes on Orgon’s desire to retain control over a rebellious family. Chaos ensues when members of the family attempt to prove Tartuffe is an imposter.
“This play is best known for its condemnation of religious hypocrisy, but I am working to center the production in the gender struggle for autonomy and self-determination that goes on between Orgon and Elmire,” explains May. “I view Orgon’s decision to bring Tartuffe into the family as a means of re-establishing his control over his wife and children.”
She provided as example, when Orgon decides to force his daughter to marry Tartuffe, he says, “I’m going to make you people see; the master in this house is me!“
“As a result of this interpretation and drawing upon our location near Seneca Falls, I am setting this production of Tartuffe in England at the turn of the 20th century during the women’s suffrage movement,” adds May.
Working with May on this production were two visiting guest artists, Professor Eileen Curley of Marist College, who served as production dramaturg, and Professor Daydrie Hague of Auburn University who served as vocal coach.
The Theatre Department also launched the second season of Frame/Works on Friday, Oct. 24, with a pre-show lecture by Curley, called “Suffrage and the Seventeenth-Century: Gender, Power and Moliere’s Tartuffe.” The talk explored the intersections between Moliere’s 17th century and the women’s rights movement of the 20th century, with a particular focus on theatrical adaptations and the gender roles and power dynamics. Curley’s talk took place in the Fisher Center, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Curley’s current research focuses on women who used amateur theatricals at the turn of the 20th century to manipulate proscribed gender roles and gain public power through performance. At Marist, she teaches numerous dramatic literature, writing and theatre courses, where she also periodically designs scenery for campus productions. She has worked on more than 50 shows at academic and professional venues in New York, Iowa and Indiana. Curley earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in theatre history, theory and literature from Indiana University and a B.A. in theatre from Grinnell College in Iowa.
Frame/Works is a program designed to draw connections between scholarly examination and artistic practice. Scholars are invited to present their research on a play, playwright, historical moment, genre or style in a pre-show lecture prior to a performance. Following the performance, audience members are invited to participate in a post-show talkback with members of the cast and creative team. Taken together, the pre-show lecture and the post-show talkback “frame” a “work” of theatrical art.
“Tartuffe” featured returning designers in scenic design (Bill Burd) and sound design (Kelly Walker). Guest designer Derrick Vanmeter joined the team for this production as lighting designer and technical director. Bekah Frees Carey, Eastman School of Music designer, joined the production staff in costume design for this season.
Please note: All productions in the 2014-2015 HWS Theatre season contain adult content and language and are not recommended for young audiences.
The 2014-2015 HWS Theatre season will continue with “Alice in Wonderland,” on Feb. 19, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m.