Friday, January 13, 2012

Jeremy Trager: Tartuffe on "Tartuffe"

We don't really know what we've learned until we can look back on something that is finished.

My freshman year in college, I served on the running crew for Tartuffe. Moliere seemed much more sophisticated and rich (in both appearance and content) compared to my earlier perception of it being a brutish farce. As it turns out, Moliere (like any playwright) is subject to stylistic variations within his body of work. He's also subject to the vision of directors, actors, and designers. Like Shakespeare, Moliere's stories can be moved from century to century, setting to setting - a testament to his relevance and universality. 

Tartuffe is the antagonist, yes. He is a very tangible threat to every other character in the show. He is in some ways heartless. Certainly, he lacks morality. But he's coming from destitution; fighting to survive in an economically unfair society where the rich live like royalty and people like him eat scraps off the street. I can't really fault him for conning his way into luxury. That he uses religion as his means of manipulation speaks to his cleverness. One need only tune in to coverage of the Presidential caucuses to see that religion is still wielded as a way to gain favor. Tartuffe has too sordid a past to run for President of the United States, but his dog and pony show is quite similar to what we see in today's sociopolitical landscape. I suppose then, Tartuffe... or should I say, Moliere... was ahead of his time. . 

At this juncture I'm still uncertain of many of the design elements that will come into play during tech week when we get to Theatre Wit. But I can speak to something I've already learned in this process, which is the humanity of my character. I remember watching our college production and thinking Tartuffe was a monstrous creature. This was - and is - the type of character I am most interested in playing. At that age, I could not really put into words why I was so interested in exploring the "bad guys." Now, as a more mature student of acting, I can attest that the "bad guys" often turn out to be the most complex and surprisingly human in any given story. After all, what is more human than to be deeply flawed? 

-- Jeremy Trager, is a Jeff Award, After Dark Award, and Broadway World Chicago Award-winning actor and singer who studies vocal performance and Shakespeare in his spare time. Tartuffe will be his first collaboration with BoHo Theatre.

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