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Straight Speaking or the Lack of It in Catawba College's Production of "Tartuffe"

March 25, 2008

Category: Events, Theatre Arts

"Tartuffe" is a comedy that has been around almost 400 years, but in a new interpretation used by Catawba College's Theatre Arts Department, it seems amazingly current.

Catawba's production of "Tartuffe," by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Moliere and interpreted by Maya Slater, opens in Hedrick Theatre on campus at 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, April 8. It is offered again at 6:55 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9, and thereafter, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 10-12.

Written by one of the world's most notoriously famous actor-playwrights, "Tartuffe," is among the best known of all historic comedies, and is a hallmark of satire. It attacks the pious and false prophets and, according to Maya Slater, "explores the subject of straight speaking, or the lack of it."  Human folly is examined as are incurable character flaws. The audience views the posturing zealot, Tartuffe, who claims to be a "holy man," and the ridiculous wealthy family which is "taken-in" by him and committed to following his insanity.

Moliere took great care to make sure that his characters learned nothing in his plays. He used this trait to make his characters recognizable and his themes more poignant. In his eyes, human beings were ever more loveable and laughable because of their wrong-headedness.

Described as perceptive, raucous and irreverent, "Tartuffe" is amazingly current to today's political climate. The characters of modern individuals including Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggert and Tom DeLay, all smack of the same corruption as the character of Tartuffe.

Slater's interpretation uses the traditional rhyme and alexandrine meter which maintain the lilt and wit of the original language while at the same time; it pushes the boundaries of modern comedy with physical humor, running gags, highest farce and ageless business from the Italian commedia dell'arte. Additionally, the Catawba production includes a special mystery performance that theatre-goers will not want to miss.

"Tartuffe" will be directed by Catawba College Theatre Arts Professor Dayna Anderson. Cast members include Jesse Hunter of Powder Springs, Ga., as Tartuffe; Chris Clowers of Whitefish Bay, Wis., as the Officer; Betsy Foster of Baltimore, Md., as Elmire; Brianna Smith of Austin, Texas, as Dorine; Justin Johnson of Fuquay-Varina as Cleante; Jackson Holder of Charleston, S.C., as Flipote; Jordan Hunt of Hartford, Wis., as Laurent; Sara Scronce of Newton as Mariane; Michael Matthias of Georgetown, De., as Monsieur Loyal; Justin Tyler Lewis of Knoxville, Tenn., as Damis; Andy McCain of Mequon, Wis., as Orgon; and Aaron Ganas of Milwaukee, Wis., as Valere.

Crew members include Jared Kenish of Glassboro, N.J., stage manager; Laura Klayman of Cloudcroft, N.M., assistant stage manager; Emily Wonderly of Hicksville, Ohio, dramaturge;  and Sam Brooks of Seaford, Va., costume designer and hair and make-up designer.

Theatre-goers will also enjoy original music that leading character Jesse Hunter created for the production. Taking his inspiration from period style and instrumentation,  Jesse has scored the entire show with his special style, often changing hats between composer and actor.

"Tartuffe" is appropriate for all but the youngest of audiences. Tickets to "Tartuffe" are $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens and group rates are available. Contact the Catawba Box Office at (704) 637-4481.