Every year the Performing Arts and Social Justice Department produces two plays: one in the fall and one in the spring. However, this year the department chose to deviate from the slew of heavy and dark dramas of recent years by performing a comedy written by Molière.
I got to sit down with Isaac Samuelson, a senior playing the role of the pushover husband Chrysale in this performance of “Learned Ladies.” He commented on the trend of deep performances, saying, “It’s not bad, but it’s just been consistently dark.” He, like the department, thought it was time to shake things up. After all, he said, “The primary goal is always entertainment. If you don’t keep your audience entertained then you lose them, and the secondary social justice aspect of the performance is lost.”
Although “Learned Ladies” is a classic play set in 17th century France, the comedy of it still shines through today. Even if you find the speech in older works challenging to understand, you can still understand the jokes because the language has been modernized. Along with the words, the plot is a common and easily recognizable one: a con man tries to steal money from a wealthy family by marrying the daughter. Trissotin, the con artist, is pretending to be a great poet, but in reality rips off lines of Shakespeare and passes them off as his own. As if that weren’t enough, Henriette, the daughter, is in love with another man whom her mother disapproves of. She fills the role of the overbearing mother, but she also believes that wealth is irrelevant, but education is imperative to live a meaningful life. For this reason she has all of the women in her household, including the servants and maids, educated in classic literature.
Molière’s goal throughout the piece is to show how education can be a great thing for women, but to forget about tradition altogether is a mistake. Samuelson also comments that the women in this play are defying the conventions of society, just as he hopes to do through the social justice aspect of the program. “They challenge the status quo yet don’t throw all of their traditions away. I think this is the essence of our performing arts program: to change what you see as wrong in the world and keep what is right,” he said.
The group of actors involved in the play come from a variety of academic backgrounds, not just from the Performing Arts and Social Justice department. Students participate in all aspects of the performance from acting, to technical jobs, to stage management, to lighting, sound and costumes. Samuelson said, “It’s great because people get real experience with real professionals. It is definitely something they can add to their resumes.” Everyone who participates does it because they want to. They are not paid, nor is it a mandatory experience outlined by the Performing Arts and Social Justice department.
If you are looking for some cheap fun, attending a performance of “Learned Ladies” should be on your list. The play is full of surface as well as intellectual humor played our very own USF students.
The show opens at 8 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Lone Mountain Studio Theater and runs until Oct. 19. The tickets are $5 for USF students and $10 for general admission.
Whether you are looking for entertainment, wanting to be enlightened on social issues, or just curious, a pleasant surprise awaits you in “Learned Ladies.”