No one shall know our joys, save us alone, And there is no evil til the act is known.Tartuffe – Act IV.5
UPDATE: It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the cancellation of our production of Tartuffe. Due to the continued Covid-19 restrictions in Frankfurt, we are unable to perform this show for a live audience as intended. We want to thank everyone for their support and most importantly the cast and crew for their hard work and dedication to this project throughout many months of uncertainty. While it continues to be a challenging time for the theatre, we remain optimistic that one day soon we will be able to once again share stories in the traditional format we know and love. Until then, stay safe and healthy.
Molière’s comedic masterpiece is about “The Cult of Personality”, or what happens when a con-artist attempts to fool an entire family.
This timeless comedy is a story that highlights how absurd a family becomes when they are fooled and manipulated by the charlatan, Tartuffe. Using Richard Wilbur’s poetic translation, traditions from Volkstheatre and Commedia dell’arte, Shakespeare Frankfurt will take you into a world of hypocrisy and humor where the question becomes: How easily do we trust what we hear and at what point do we begin to take action when we know we have been deceived. Molière created one of the great comedies of all time by taking many of the stock characters from Commedia dell’arte and transforming them into multifaceted personalities who are either seduced, conned or vilified by the lecherous Tartuffe.
Director – Elisa von Issendorff
click image for role & bio
Elisa von Issendorff
click image for role & bio
ABOUT THE PLAY | DIRECTOR’S NOTE
Molière’s comedies reflected his times and his audience. The rising bourgeois and the urbanized noble in 17th century France enjoyed a society whose customs and practices grew in sophistication. The more that men and women stepped away from the realities of daily life, the more they moved in an abstracted world, reflecting upon the business of living together. It was a society that valued personal quality and distinction and pursued them in both theory and practice. A study of social accomplishment emerged in the concept of the honnête homme. Honnête signalled social accomplishment in dress, manners or conversation, and explained the individual’s ability to please. The resulting theatricality of social living made Molière’s audience more sensitive to the possibilities of theater. Molière’s comedies juxtapose this society with the comedic elements of the street theatre – French Farce and Italian Commedia dell’arte: Stereotypical characters, master-servant conflicts, quick changes in tempo and, most importantly, physicality.
In “Tartuffe,” Molière relates physicality and speech to questions of truth and lie. Tartuffe has mastered full mimicry of this society not in dress or manners but in conversation. His beautiful speeches keep Orgon under his spell and almost seduce Elmire. Language can fool some but not all: The rest of the family see Tartuffe for who he is. Especially Dorine, the wise maid – an archetypical character of the Commedia dell’arte – can’t be tricked. Orgon, however, won’t hear the countless accounts of Tartuffe’s crimes; it is only physical evidence that reveals the truth.
Theater during a pandemic is not easy. At a time when humor is most needed, performing comedies on a stage, in front of an audience, is impossible. With Molière’s “Tartuffe” – a play in which physicality and liveness are so vital for storytelling – we are faced with the task of rehearsing and performing online, each actor from their homes. However difficult this was, we found great joy in exploring the text and mastering the art of socially distanced physicality, proving once again that theater can be done everywhere.
Mme Pernelle leaves her son Orgon’s house. She despises the family for not living a pious and honest life. She believes that Tartuffe, a religious man her son has recently taken in, might be able to save the family. Orgon returns from a short trip. His wife’s brother Cléante questions him regarding his daughter Mariane’s engagement to Valère.
Orgon reveals to Mariane that she is to marry Tartuffe. Dorine, her maid, vehemently protests but is not heard. Dorine confronts Mariane on this matter, as Valère enters. Valère and Mariane engage in a heated argument about her supposed engagement to Tartuffe. Dorine can resolve all issues between them and reveals her ideas to stop Orgon’s plan.
Damis, Orgon’s son, takes matters into his own hands. He wants to surprise Tartuffe with Orgon’s wife Elmire, whom Tartuffe has laid his eyes on. Elmire cleverly offers Tartuffe not to tell Orgon about his advances if he promises to support the marriage of Mariane and Valère. Damis interrupts them and reveals Tartuffe’s villainous scheme to Orgon. Tartuffe pleads for forgiveness. Blinded by Tartuffe’s supposed piousness Orgon disinherits his son and makes Tartuffe his only heir.
Cléante implores Tartuffe to change Orgon’s mind about the inheritance. Orgon presents Mariane the marriage contract – she is devastated. Elmire steps in and offers to show Orgon that Tartuffe is an imposter. In Orgon’s presence, she seduces Tartuffe and exposes his true lecherous character. Orgon is finally convinced. Tartuffe threatens to ruin the family and leaves.
Tartuffe possesses documents that implicate Orgon in political crimes. Damis returns and offers to kill Tartuffe. Mme Pernelle refuses to believe the rumors. With the whole family assembled, a bailiff delivers a notice of eviction. Valère storms in. He warns that Orgon will be arrested and offers to help him flee the country. As Orgon turns to leave, Tartuffe stops him. He orders a police officer to carry out his duty. The officer arrests Tartuffe and explains to the stunned family that the King has wisely seen through Tartuffe’s charade and therefore pardons Orgon. Orgon happily reinstates Mariane’s and Valère’s engagement.
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