Red Deer College’s School of Creative Arts is gearing up for its final production of the season – Moliere’s The School for Husbands/The School for Wives.
Shows run April 5th to 7th and April 10th to 14th in Studio A.
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. with weekend matinees on April 7th and April 14th at 1 p.m.
Intent on instructing the perfect wives, wealthy suitors Sgaranlle and Arnolphe each approach the situation differently, but surprisingly with similar results, according to the synopsis.
“Controlling and short-sighted, each mature suitor is tricked by lessons in love that only youth can fully appreciate. Smile in mischievous delight as the beautiful young wards turn the tables on their unlucky mentors. No matter the intent, the girls get the highest grades in their pair of playful stories from France’s greatest humourist.”
Calgary-based director Alice Nelson, who teaches at RDC, said exploring the layers of meaning and humour in the play has been a delight.
Besides being an accomplished actor, playwright, director, theatre educator, producer, puppeteer, improviser and mask maker, she has also had the joy of teaching clown at RDC for the past several years.
She is also a class clown with the international humanitarian organization, Clowns Without Borders, and has been a part of expeditions to South Africa, touring clown shows to schools, communities and orphanages.
As to School for Husbands/School for Wives, Nelson notes that several adaptations have been created of Moliere’s masterful and enduring work. It was first performed in Paris in 1661.
“His writing is quite eloquent as well. So it’s that challenge of delivering the joke in this beautiful language, and making it communicate to today’s audience. I love that challenge. All of his works have these characters that you can play larger than life, too.”
They are actually two separate plays, which have been trimmed in length to be featured together at RDC.
“They are basically like one big sitcom,” she explained. “In both plays, it’s about these older guardians of these young girls who are now plotting to marry them. It’s also about how these girls trick them. It’s very fun,” she said, adding the set, designed by Hanne Loosen, is a wonder in and of itself.
“She has designed this set that has all of these nooks and crannies, holes in walls and balconies – so the characters are kind of popping in and out everywhere.”
She has particularly enjoyed collaborating with the students, too. “I’ve really enjoyed their creative input,” she said. “The show has physical comedy and physical comedy routines and we are really trying to create not so much the stock characters, but really eccentric characters. The students have just come up with so many great comic bits, too,” she added. “Also, just finding what the joke is and practicing the slickness of the physical comedy routines. That’s been the funnest part because we all crack up a lot in rehearsal.”
The cast, in total, numbers 15 with one of them, Christian Goodchild, serving as assistant director.
“It’s been wonderful for him to see the full picture, with attending all of the design and production meetings. He gives me ideas, too. It’s wonderful and great to have a ‘partner in crime’.”
As to Moliere’s style, it has clearly stood the test of time with themes that resonate today.
“When I read the plays, the thing that resonated the most with me – especially with what feels like another women’s movement – is how the women in this play do call out these guys on how badly they’ve treated them, and how they’ve taken advantage of them.
“In our culture today that is happening, so when I read the plays I thought, well, they are still relevant,” she said, adding that indeed, these are stories that still need to be told. “And at least we are telling them through humour, which I think is such a great conduit for the message.”
With being involved in so many aspects of theatre, Nelson said directing offers its own unique rewards.
“I love seeing the actors take risks and come forward. And to see them surprise themselves, it’s just fantastic. The other thing I would say is that it’s so fantastic to work with a team of artists – the designers, the builders and the painters – they are all masters at their crafts.
“Just to work with this kind of team – you are very lucky when you get that chance. Every day that I come in, they’ve done something else to make the world of this show more amazing.”
There’s no question she’s following the right path.
”Every project is a new opportunity to learn skills that you didn’t have before and to work with people you may have never worked with.
“You never stop learning. There are always new discoveries.”
For ticket information, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.