Molière’s Classic “Tartuffe” Heads Out West at Manhattanville College

March 28, 2014 @ 12:00 am – 1:00 am
Manhattanville College
2900 Purchase Street
Purchase, NY 10577
$10 General Admission, $5 Seniors and Students
Dance and Theatre Department

The Dance and Theatre Department at Manhattanville College will be bringing Molière’s “Tartuffe” to the Wild West when its production of the play opens March 27.

“We’ve got gunslingers, and Tartuffe lassoed like he is a little doggie,” Director Clista Townsend said using a southern drawl to emphasize the time period.

It is common for Molière’s works to be adapted to different time periods, to avoid the use of accents, Townsend said, however she has never heard of “Tartuffe” being brought to 1880s San Francisco.  Despite the setting change the play still offers many of the same aspects of Molière’s version including the big costumes, and the boldness of the characters traditionally found in Commedia dell’arte which he was trained in.

“Tartuffe,” titled after the main character, a conartist, who tricks Orgon into letting him stay at his home. Once inside Tartuffe pursues Orgon’s wife, Elmire, disrupts the lives of the rest of Orgon’s family, and attempts to take Orgon’s home and possessions behind his back. The family then comes together in an attempt to expose Tartuffe for what he really is, before it is too late.

Using the Richard Wilbur translation of the play, which was originally written in the mid-1600s, the actors will be speaking in the same rhyming, iambic pentameter that Molière wrote in. Townsend chose this translation because she wanted the students to use iambic pentameter despite it being the biggest challenge to the production.

“For an actor to improvise or paraphrase, if you forget your line in a contemporary play is fine. If it is Shakespeare and you are good at iambic pentameter ok, but to do it rhymed and in iambic pentameter is a huge challenge to the actor,” Townsend said, stressing the importance for the actors to have each line fully memorized.

Iambic pentameter is a meter used in poetry and writing, where each line is ten syllables long and broken into five, two-syllable pairs, where the first syllable is unstressed and the second one is stressed.

The production will run from March 27 through 29 with shows at 8 p.m. and conclude with a 2 p.m., matinee performance on March 30. All of the shows will take place in the Little Theatre of Brownson Hall.

Tickets to “Tartuffe” are $10 or $5 for Manhattanville students. To reserve tickets call, 914-323-7175.

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