Davis High School drama teacher and director Gwyn Bruch has set Molière’s classic "Tartuffe" in 1969 San Francisco. The play, which opens Friday, features, from left, Austin Day as Valere, Madi Starr as a hippie follower of Tartuffe, Travis Selph as Orgon and Margaret Starbuck as Orgon's wife Elmire. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo


DHS drama department presents ‘Tartuffe’

By From page A1 | March 06, 2012

Just the ticket

What: DHS drama department production of ‘Tartuffe,’ a fundraiser for the thespians’ summer trip to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 15-17; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS, 315 W. 14th St.

Tickets: $15 general, $10 students; at the door or at www.dhsdrama.net

The Davis High School drama department presents Molière’s “Tartuffe,” debuting at 7 p.m. Friday at the Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS, 315 W. 14th St.

“Audiences can expect a really funny show with a lot of physical comedy and slapstick humor,” student stage manager Laura Lavernia said.

The classic French comedy, which director Gwyneth Bruch has set in San Francisco during 1969, will have audience members laughing. The show follows the story of one family: Orgon (Travis Selph), his second wife Elmire (Margaret Starbuck), his daughter Mariane (Emily Bamforth), his son Damis (Matthew Fyhrie) and his brother-in-law Cléante (Will Kingscott).

Orgon invites the hypocrite Tartuffe (Jack Davis) to live with his family because Orgon believes Tartuffe is the key to being hip in the 1960s, according to Lavernia. Tartuffe preaches that he is a religious man when, in fact, he is in love with Orgon’s wife Elmire and is followed by a gang of hippies (Madi Starr, Sibel Alpdemir, Karene Liu, Shannon Turner and Bryce Vaewsorn).

Orgon is unable to see Tartuffe’s character defects and insists that his daughter Mariane marry Tartuffe. However, Mariane is already in love with her suitor Valère (Austin Day), a college student who studies philosophy and writes poetry.

“A lot of the times (Valère’s) very serious and doesn’t like to laugh a lot, but when I’m with my fiancée she actually brings out a smile in me and brings out the emotions in my character,” Day said.

Soon the household comes together, including Mariane’s maid Dorine (Melissa Ferris), to prove to Orgon that Tartuffe is not the holy man he claims to be so Mariane can marry Valère. As the plot unfolds, characters begin to unravel.

“Cléante, Orgon’s brother-in-law, very rarely loses his cool, but as the wheels start flying off from the events, he starts to get angry at the situation,” Kingscott said.

Orgon’s wife Elmire also tries to seduce Tartuffe to show her husband that Tartuffe is in love with her, according to Starbuck.

At the end of the show, “Orgon gets what Tartuffe promised him of enlightenment, and it’s nothing in the old ways of him asking and bossing people around,” Selph said. “It’s him realizing what other people want, realizing that if that’s what makes them happy then ultimately that’s going to make him happy.”

The DHS drama department last produced “Tartuffe” in 2003 and decided to bring the show back this year for the Davis community in preparation for the students’ trip to Scotland in August.

DHS was chosen to compete with international student performance groups at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, where the cast of “Tartuffe” will perform the show again.

All the proceeds from the spring performance of “Tartuffe” will help fund the students’ expenses for their trip to Scotland.

Bruch said she believes “Tartuffe” is the right show for the Fringe Festival.

“It’s a good piece of literature and because this is an international theater festival — and we will be seeing other schools from all over — I wanted to do a relatively important piece of theatrical literature,” she said.

For both the Davis spring performance and the show in Scotland, Selph believes the show is successful because of the effective collaboration between Bruch and the actors.

“I think it’s great that Gwyn lets us put in our two cents into our scenes, because we put so much research into our characters,” Selph said. “I feel like a lot more ideas can get across if everyone gets input.”

Bruch adds that she always enjoys having her actors contribute their own ideas.

“As an actor myself, I actually prefer rehearsals to performances, because it’s the creativity that’s fun and figuring things out,” she said. “When I can’t solve a problem, then I bring in somebody who can help, because there are times when I can see the vision but I’m not making it happen.

“That’s what I love about this process — how much these actors bring to the piece and the creation.”

Bruch directs the show along with support from DHS alumni Livvy Bonner and Cammi Beaumont. Kathy Peter is the technical director, DHS senior Sasha Hill designed the costumes and DHS alumnus Ian Wallace designed the 1960s set.

Wallace also created a short video clip being shown before the show to explain the historical events of the 1960s and why the drama department decided to set Moliere’s 17th century production in 1969, according to Bruch.

Tickets are $15 general and $10 for students. They may be purchased at the door or in advance at the DHS drama department’s online site, www.dhsdrama.net.

Curtain times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Thursday through Saturday, March 15-17. A 2 p.m. matinee also is planned for Sunday. The show is appropriate for all ages.

Kelly Goss

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