'Tartuffe': extravagant drama

On April 24, 2014

The A-State Theater Department closed out its 2013-2014 season with the biting comedy “Tartuffe, a French play ripe with the religious hypocrisy of men, the foolishness of the wealthy, and the torrential power of love.

The play’s action takes place in the comfortable home of Orgon, yet madness ensues when the seemingly pious houseguest “Tartuffe” turns out to be anything but. Tartuffe has been invited to live with Orgon and his family, but he has other plans.

He is caught upon several occasions committing unholy deeds, yet when Orgon is confronted about Tartuffe’s actions Orgon immediately takes Tartuffe’s side, believing that because he is of the clergy he could never commit such wrongs.

All of the actions and characters are overly dramatic, which added to the hilarity and insanity of the play, and the title character is no exception.

Paul Coulter, a junior theatre major of Cordova, Tenn., was cast as the infamous Tartuffe. Coulter said it was the style of the play that was most difficult to master.

“Everything was so grand and extravagant,” he said. “It’s very long, drawn out and impressive. Every action in the play is so much larger, so I think the largeness was the biggest challenge.”

Several different characters came in for the show’s climax, and while their roles were minor, the actors’ dedication to their performances were not.

Tyler Gillespie, a freshman theatre major of Dumas who played Bailiff Loyal, went through unique processes to develop his character. He said, “I just went to Walmart, Walgreens, and public parks to watch crippled elderly people to get down their walk.”

“Tartuffe” included a romantic twist as well.

The otherwise happy couple of Valere and Mariane, who were played by freshman theater major Justin Almager of El Dorado and junior theater major Sarah Ring of Cabot, respectively, is fractured by the unsubtle interference of none other than Tartuffe.

One interesting aspect of the play was the costumes reflected the intentions of the characters.

The more translucent the clothing, the more honest the intentions of the character, according to Claire Abernathy, the costume designer for the show and assistant professor of theatre.

The process of organizing the play began last year. When selecting a play for the A-State yearly lineup, instructors look for something that will educate the audience, challenge the students, and provide opportunities for casting and designing.

“Two weeks after auditions, we start the rehearsal process, and we sit down and read the script because most of (the students) have never taken a class in verse or style of acting,” said Tim Bohn, director of Tartuffe and assistant professor of theater.

“We spent the first few days of rehearsal just going through the script figuring out what it means, how to speak the poetic language, and how the structure of the play is so they had a thorough understanding intellectually before we ever got up on our feet. From there it’s just a matter of exploration and discovery in rehearsal. Once they understood the text they were able to play and make discoveries about who these people are, how they relate to each other,” he said. “That’s where the real joy is.”

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