Production of 'Tartuffe' play presents challenges

Production of 'Tartuffe' play presents challenges

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College Director of Communications
417.447.2655 publicinfo@otc.edu
Steve Koehler
Coordinator of Publications (417) 447-2666 koehlers@otc.edu

By Steve Koehler

The faculty, students and alumni involved in Ozarks Technical Community College’s spring production of “Tartuffe” are facing some daunting challenges with this year’s play.

First, organizers want to prove that the success of last year’s spring play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” by Steve Martin wasn’t a fluke and that they can avoid the so-called sophomore jinx.

“There is a misconception that the freshman play is the most important play. The sophomore play is the most important play. We have something to prove,” said Kenneth Wilson, a fine arts faculty member and also the production director and actor in this year’s play.

Secondly, for the cast of “Tartuffe,” written in French by Moliere in the 1600s, the English translation demands the actors to memorize and speak lines that are written in rhyming couplets.

That can be quite an undertaking for the players who must recite each line exactly and also be aware of the other actors’ lines to allow the rhyming dialogue to flow.

“I’ve never done anything like this. It’s difficult at first,” said Matt Albers, who plays Tartuffe.

In the play, which runs March 13-15 at the Gillioz Theater, Tartuffe, is a con artist who passes himself off as a holy man and wins the good graces of wealthy man named Orgon. Tartuffe is welcomed into Orgon's home and offered his daughter in marriage.

 Meanwhile, Tartuffe secretly attempts to woo Orgon's wife.  Everyone can see Tartuffe as the lying, hypocrite imposter he is - except for Orgon.  

The question that hangs over the play is: Will Orgon's family be able to expose Tartuffe before he destroys the household?

For Jon Herbert, the play’s director, his challenge is making a script that is very dense with words understandable for the audience.

“And it’s not just words that are a challenge, but poetic imagery and odd phrasings.  It’s iambic pentameter, so every line is 10 syllables long, and it’s written in rhyming couplets.  Many of the actors have very long speeches which have to be filled with meaning and movement,” he said.

 It’s very easy to memorize the lines in a habitual rhythm or melody, and this becomes a challenge to break. But I have some talented, playful, inventive cast members who are meeting the challenge.”

Amy Dowell, who plays Elmire, Argon’s wife and the object of Tartuffe’s affections, doesn’t feel intimidated by the play’s script.

“I’ve never done any classical works. Memorizing is easy. The rhyming is difficult. The audience can just sit back and relax and they’ll understand it,” she said.

Dowell said having many of the same cast members from last year’s play has made for a comfortable feeling while in the midst of preparing “Tartuffe.”

“It’s just a big family. It’s comfortable and it’s fun,” she said.

“Tartuffe” will be performed March 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m and March 15 at 2:30 p.m. All performances will be at the Gillioz Theater. Tickets are $10. For more information call 447-4831.

 Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications at Ozarks Technical Community College.