Hiram College

The Hiram Theater department and students are really thinking INSIDE the box this time. They’ve gone back to the hallowed past of theater and converted their state of the art Renner “black box” theater into a classic proscenium arch for the two-weekend run of “Tartuffe,” by the 17th Century French master Moliere.

The production, which also will feature lavish period costumes created “from the ground up” especially for the show,  opens Friday  March 16 at 7:30 at the Renner, with a second performance Saturday at 7:30, and second-weekend performances March 23, and 24.

“I think the audience will be surprised when they come to see it,” said theater professor Richard Hyde. “the whole point of the black box-style theater is that it can be configured in many different ways, and so usually audiences would expect the traditional proscenium arch configuration. It fits this play though, and we did it deliberately to maybe challenge some of their expectations.

Written in 1664 by the master of the French farce, and  billed as a “study in hypocrisy and deception,” Moliere’s play was originally banned by King Louis XIV possibly at the urging of Catholic Church officials,  because of its perceived pokes at religious piety and hypocrisy. The plot surrounds the title character, who pretends to be pious and to speak with divine authority, his lust for Elmire, the wife of his friend and host, Orgon, his scheming to evict Orgon and his family from their home, and the humorous efforts of his host’s family to expose him as a blowhard and a fake. The word “tartuffe” sometimes is even used in both English and French to mean someone who feigns virtue, especially religious virtue. As was the tradition of the time, Moliere wrote the entire play in 12-syllable rhymed couplets called “alexandrines.”

“We decided to use a translation of the script by Richard Wilbur,” Hyde said. “Because Wilbur translated it from French into English in rhyming couplets so that it is very close to the French. It’s very difficult to do for a translator and we think it give the audience the best feel for Moliere’s language.”

The authenticity will be enhanced by the period costumes produced specially for the show.

“We have limited resources, but Betsy Bauman (Associate professor and Chair of the Theater Department) and the students, some of whom didn’t even have sewing skills, did a great job creating the 17th century costumes,” Hyde said. “And now we will be able to add them to our stocks of costumes when the production is finished.

For more information and tickets, contact hct@hiram.edu, or call 330-569-5242.