Monday, January 9, 2012

Tartuffe: Meet the Playwright

The playwright we know today as Moliere was born in 1622 as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in Paris, the eldest of six children. His family was upper class, and had a thriving upholstery business. Jean-Baptiste’s father, Jean Poquelin, was able to purchase a royal post for his family, as "Tapissiers ordinaires de la chambre du Roi", (upholsters of the royal family). This brought the Poquelin family even closer to the royal court, which would help Jean-Baptiste in his adulthood as a playwright. In 1641, Jean-Baptiste attended a Jesuit school, College de Clermont, and received a Law Degree. He also began a famous romantic liaison with the much older actress Madeleine Bejart. Together in 1643, the two founded Illustre Theatre (“Illustrious Theatre”). Unfortunately, in 1644, Illustre Theatre failed, closed, and Jean-Baptiste was thrown into and bailed out of debtors prison.

In 1645, Jean-Baptiste began touring the countryside with as a performer with an acting troupe. It is at this time that he assumed the name Moliere, and joined a theatre company, Dufresne, which he would eventually control. After years of touring the countryside, in 1656 Moliere and his troupe return to Paris and performed many successful shows written by Moliere. In 1659, the troupe began to receive regular monetary support from the king and in 1660, the troupe moved to the theatre at Palais-Royal.

In 1662 Moliere married Armande, an actress in his troupe twenty years his junior. The next year Moliere and his troupe were invited to perform at Versailles for the first time. In 1664, the first three acts of Tartuffe are presented to the court at Versailles. It was not until 1667 when first complete version of Tartuffe offered, but immediately suppressed by the king. Finally two years later in 1669, a second version of Tartuffe was finally allowed to perform and was a huge success. Tartuffe made the troupe the most money they ever make in any one run of a show.

Moliere eventually wrote over 30 plays and lived his life as a famous actor. In 1673, Moliere became very ill during a performance of Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), and died on Feb 17, 1673.

-- compiled by Ariel Tocino, Director of New Works and Social Media for BoHo Theatre. Tartuffe opens this weekend at Theater Wit! Get your tickets today. Follow her on Twitter: @BohoTheatre for updates on the show, the season and all things BoHo!

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