MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University’s summer theater program, the Valley Shakespeare Company will expand its sights this month to present Molière’s classic comedy, Tartuffe.

Valley Shakespeare Company will present Tartuffe at 8 p.m. on July 26-29 and Aug. 2-4.

A pre-show seminar will set the scene for the audience.

Admission and parking are free, and both Friday performances will include ASL interpretation.

Shows are at the Leinwand Outdoor Stage, just outside Rice Auditorium on the WOU campus.

Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or low lawn chairs to sit on. Picnics are welcome, and light snacks and drinks will be available in the Rice Auditorium lobby.

David Janowiak, WOU theater professor, is directing the play.

The plot revolves around the devious title character, who charms his way into patriarch Orgon’s household and schemes to marry his daughter, seduce his wife and run off with the family’s fortune.

Orgon refuses to see Tartuffe for who he is, despite appalling evidence of his behavior.

“Molière is making fun of religious hypocrisy, which is timely for a 400-year-old play,” said WOU faculty member Ted deChatelet, who plays Tartuffe. “Within the world of the play, Tartuffe is purporting to be a very religious and upright person but he’s not at all. There’s the fun is watching him pretend to be one thing...”

“The fast-paced deception of it all,” student actor Phoebe Meddler chimed in.

The production will feature two other guest artists, actor Stephen Price in the role of Orgon and costumes designer Laurel Peterson.

Having a guest costumer makes 17th century attire possible for a summer production, Janoviak said.

The rest of the 18-member cast is comprised of WOU students.

“Tartuffe is a lot of fun,” said Janoviak. “There’s a lot of physical comedy. And we’re doing it in-period, so there will be neo-classical wigs and snuff boxes.”

Meghan Doerfler, who plays Emire, Orgon’s wife, said as an actor the play is exhausting.

“But as an audience member watching, it’s a lot of fun,” she added.

“I’m hoping that as we put it in front of audiences, it is as funny as we want it to be,” said Gabriel Elmore. “When you look at the actual action from scene to scene, it’s really dark. It’s not slapstick humor.”

The play “flip flops” between slapstick elements and darker elements, Meddler said.

Molière was a French contemporary of Shakespeare. The Valley Shakespeare Company is using the adaptation by Ranjit Bolt.

It’s much easier to understand than Shakespeare, Doerfler said.

“Verse is always a little bit easier for me,” Price said, regarding line memorization. “Because it’s like basically the Dr. Seuss verse. I was able to key into that and then the rhymes helped. There are a lot of clues within that structure. It’s fun because Molière was working within this verse structure and he makes all this amazing stuff happen. The translation is really good too. It’s really lively.”

Elmore said it is somewhat tricky because “you still have to treat it like classical text.”

“Don’t be afraid,” Janoviak said. “We make it accessible. Our grove is pleasant and wonderful and magical. Bring your family. It’s free. Come out and see a show. Give it a chance.”

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