By Cady Inabinett, Managing editor of content
Collaboration and creativity are central tenants to Montevallo Theatre’s newest production, “Tartuffe.”
The show, directed by Montevallo theatre professor and head of actor training Marcus Lane, is an adaptation of French playwright Molière’s 1664 comedy. The play follows main character Tartuffe as he is taken in by the wealthy Orgon family under the guise of ministering to them, only to almost destroy them instead.
The play works to blend classical theatrical forms, such as commedia dell’arte — an early form of Italian theatre that utilizes stock characters and comedy, with innovative methods such as audience participation.
Lane described this blending as a process of shared creation. “Tartuffe’s” cast and crew members took an action outline, an outline that lays out what actions have to occur for the story to move forward, and created all the lines of dialogue themselves.
This was a process that involved all the students working on the play, with Lane saying, “It wasn’t just the actors; it was the cast and crew. So, stage managers, props designer, lighting designer all fed in and came up with jokes and all that kind of stuff.”
Josh Norris, a junior musical theatre major who plays Tartuffe, said this was his first experience with shared creation while working on a show.
He reminisced on learning about the process in early rehearsals, saying, “It was so interesting. Like, second day of rehearsal we read through the script and then Marcus was like, ‘Okay, like, don’t remember—remember some of it, but don’t really do it verbatim because that’s not what we’re doing. We’re doing a different show.’”
Lane described this process as enjoyable, allowing room for exploration that isn’t offered with a set script.
“Really part of it is about kind of making space, it was one of the big things for this,” said Lane. “I have, I would like to say, a keen sense of humor, but I definitely like things like double-entendre and innuendo and kind of word-smithing a little bit I really enjoy. So, when I’m writing things, I’m trying to find those kinds of things. And, you know, I very easy could’ve sat down and written an adaptation, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted the students to have a sense of ownership. I wanted everyone who’s involved in the process to kind of hear their voice reflected in what they were doing.”
Norris echoed this sentiment, saying he’s felt as though this is the most influence he’s ever had over a play as an actor.
“There’s just a little more of a box in other theatres, in other shows,” Norris said. “So, with this show, I had a really big box. I had a lot that I could do and try out that was completely possible and reasonable for the type of show we’re doing.”
Collaborative creation is an ongoing part of the process. Lane pointed out that they had only had a finalized script for a couple of weeks and were still working on tweaking things as the show dates near.
Humor is central to show as well, with Lane saying, “I think that anyone who likes humor will find seven to eight jokes that fit their style of humor. If you like all kinds of humor, you’ll hopefully will be laughing the whole time.”
The levity of “Tartuffe” is one of the reasons Lane wanted to direct it.
“I’m a recent cancer survivor, and coming out of the pandemic, because I had my surgeries during the pandemic and all that kind of fun stuff, I needed to get back into doing my work but my personal choice in material usually is dark material. It’s, you know, I’ve done plays about kids getting with stones in the head and everyone thinks they’re dead, you know, or, people being fooled on the internet and then killing somebody else. I didn’t want to do those kinds of stories right now,” he said.
Lane also viewed the collaborative nature of the play as a point of joy, saying, “I think the way we did the shared creation had impact on the students. I think the idea that there’s a joy from them that, for me, I really wanted as we’re really getting back into sharing spaces again—to see smiling faces, to see laughter—was just something that was really important.”
Lightheartedness is also a reason Lane believes audiences should see the show, pointing towards, “Just the need to laugh. To be together with other human beings and not be upset and not be mad and not be worried about what our next step is, but just for a little over an hour—it normally runs 70 minutes—just be able to sit there and be like, ‘This is fun.’”
“Tartuffe” opens March 9, with nightly performances at 7:30 p.m. running March 9-11. Additionally, there will be 2 p.m. showings on March 11 and 12.
Due to a potential security breach, the university’s usual ticket provider, Audience View, has temporarily shut down. For now, the university is using a different system, and tickets can be purchased at https://commerce.cashnet.com/UMTHEATRE.
Cady Inabinett is the managing editor of content for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies and generally just being pretentious in her free time.