An Inside Look at Molière’s “Tartuffe”

"Tartuffe" at Colorado State University

By Talia Fischer

Sinner or saint, the character of Tartuffe certainly divides opinion. To Orgon, the master of the house, Tartuffe is the epitome of piousness, a beggar motivated only to save their souls. But to Orgon’s family, Tartuffe is a con man, taking advantage of people’s good nature. Tartuffe orders Orgon’s daughter to marry him, while enforcing his view that ‘a secret sin is no sin at all’ as he confesses his love to Orgon’s wife, Elmire. The family attempts to unveil Tartuffe’s deceit, but it’s too late; the family is ordered off the estate, which now belongs to Tartuffe.

For what has become an exciting annual event, the theatre program at Colorado State University presents Molière’s Tartuffe. In a break from tradition, Shakespeare at Sunset will not present a play by William Shakespeare, but by his contemporary, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name, Molière.

Director of theatre and stage directing the production this year, Walt Jones explains that “it’s more ‘in the spirit of Shakespeare’.”

Molière’s Tartuffe was first performed in 1664, which makes it almost 350 years old – only a few years younger than its Shakespearean counterparts. Considered the father of modern French comedy, Molière’s work garnered criticism and acclaim for controversial themes that challenged established conventions and memorable characters.

When asked why this play stands the test of time, Jones explains, “it’s a universal topic, and the best universal topics are about individuals. The con man still exists today, and the credulous public still exists today – it is one of those stories that survives contemporizing… this is in the news all the time,” adds Jones.

In this brisk 85-minute family entertainment, translated by Richard Wilbur, Tartuffe is transformed into the 60s mod subculture that changed fashion, music, art, cars, anything that the upper middle class thought to be popular, fashionable, and modern. Revived in the television series Mad Men, images of pop art and the mod movement will influence the visual and aural aspects of the production, blending of 17th-century Paris with the “McMansion” or a present-day suburb in the U.S.

“I like to think of this as a period mash-up,” says Jones. “There were plenty of people [in the pop art period] who thought, ‘This is not art,’ but they bought it. They would spend millions of dollars on it to show off their high status to their friends… how ‘in-the-know’ they were.”

As a family-friendly show, Jones notes, “I think it will be familiar to people of all ages –something for everybody.”

Inside the Cast:

"Tartuffe" at Colorado State University

Emily Morris; Taryn Gawronski

Emily Morris has had a wonderful time playing the role of Mariane, Orgon’s teenage daughter. While she has appeared in numerous operas and musicals, she notes that this production is particularly special for her.

Morris explains, “This experience differs for me because this is only my second ‘straight play’ or non-musical show. It has been great to be to able to explore acting without having to constantly worry about singing technique.”

As a senior vocal performance student, Morris is no stranger to the halls of the University Center for the Arts. However, she feels that through this production she has had a unique opportunity to explore more of the opportunities this state-of-the-art facility offers.

“I think my favorite part of this experience has been getting to know ‘the other sides’ of the UCA,” she said. “Even though we share the same building, the music, theatre, and dance program areas have a lot of separation.”

She adds, “But I think we have a lot to share with each other and should collaborate often.”

When asked about her character, Morris replies, “What I love about her is she is so sharp. She is whiny and silly and dramatic but so smart – she knows the score and she knows how to get what she wants.”

“This production was a lot of fun,” she continues. “I love how even though the show is nearly four hundred years old, we can all relate to these characters, whether we have been them or have known them.”

Get Tickets:

Tartuffe opens August 22 at 7:30 p.m. Show times are Aug. 22 through Sept. 8, Thursdays through Sundays, at 7 p.m. in the University Theatre at the University Center for the Arts, 1400 Remington Street. Tickets are $8 for CSU students, $8 for youth (under 18), $18 for adults and can be purchased online at or by calling the Ticket Office at (970) 491-ARTS (2787).

FREE Ticket Thursdays:

For 2013, CSU theatre will continue Free Ticket Thursdays for CSU students Ticket Thursday dates for Tartuffe are Aug. 22, 29, and Sept. 5. Space is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Students must present CSU ID in person at the Box Office to receive tickets. Seating restrictions apply.

FREE Ticket Sundays:Fort Fund Grant Logo

CSU theatre is proud to announce its new Free Ticket Sundays initiative, sponsored by the City of Fort Collins Fort Fund grant. Members of the public may attend any Sunday performance of a theatre production for free. Ticket Sunday dates for Tartuffe are Aug. 25, and Sept. 1 and 8. Space is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Must present ID in person at the Box Office to receive tickets. Seating restrictions apply.

The University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University provides an enriched venue in which the study and practice of Art, Dance, Music and Theatre are nurtured and sustained by building the skills and knowledge needed by future generations of arts professionals to become contributors to the essential vitality of our culture and society.

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