Adapted by David Ball
Directed by Dominique Serrand
A co-production with South Coast Repertory and Shakespeare Theatre Company
Limited Season · Roda Theatre
March 13–April 12, 2015
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission
“As spellbinding as a deadly snake charmed from its basket…” That’s just one of the accolades for Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand’s provocative and enjoyable revival of Molière’s satire on religious hypocrisy. A seemingly pious Tartuffe ingratiates himself to the wealthy Orgon, gaining access to the old man’s house and throwing his family into chaos. As Orgon falls for the scoundrel’s ruse, Tartuffe’s deceit takes a dangerous turn. Berkeley Rep audiences fell in love with the impish Epp and esteemed director Serrand when they delighted us with such legendary shows as The Miser. This modern interpretation of Molière’s most popular play—featuring a hypnotic Epp in the title role—is as intense and incisive as the day it was written, and just as entertaining.
David Ball · Adaptor
Dominique Serrand · Director / Scenic Design
Tom Buderwitz · Scenic Design
Sonya Berlovitz · Costume Design
Marcus Dilliard · Lighting Design
Corinne Carrillo · Sound Design
Joanne DeNaut · Casting
Amy Potozkin · Casting
Michael Suenkel · Stage Manager
Christopher Carley · Valere
Steven Epp · Tartuffe
Sofia Jean Gomez · Elmire
Brian Hostenske · Damis
Nathan Keepers · Laurent
Michael Uy Kelly · Ensemble
Lenne Klingaman · Mariane
Maria Leigh · Ensemble
Gregory Linington · Cleante
Becca Lustgarten · Ensemble
Michael Manuel · Madame Pernelle / Officer
Todd Pivetti · Ensemble
Luverne Seifert · Orgon
Suzanne Warmanen · Dorine
“Revelatory…You may have seen funnier versions of Molière’s great satire on cunningly self-serving public piety, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever experience one that bites more deeply or sticks to your mind’s ribs longer than this bracingly comic, edgily somber and transgressive product of the ingenious director Dominique Serrand and actor Steven Epp. Rapacious religiosity has never appeared so seductively and smoothly reptilian as in Epp’s performance in the title role, nor obstinate gullibility so exasperatingly, willingly obtuse as in Luverne Seifert’s true-believing Orgon, the wealthy citizen who’s become Tartuffe’s patron and chief target. An arched eyebrow has rarely conveyed such eloquent sadder-but-wiser understanding as the right brow of Sofia Jean Gomez’s Elmire, Orgon’s beautiful, beleaguered wife. Epp’s Tartuffe is an ever-more unstoppable force of quick sophistry, oh-so-pious greed and tongue-lolling lust. Serrand and company lace their Tartuffe with an ambiguity that provides plenty of food for thought on top of the nourishing helpings of entertainment.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] dangerously smart romp…Epp is as magnetic as ever onstage as Tartuffe works his age-old con game. Dressed like a perverse high priest in robes with a cutout bodice, Tartuffe trusts no one and teases everyone. Epp’s python-like movements give way to a ballet of physical virtuosity that’s nearly hypnotizing, particularly framed by [Dominique] Serrand and Tom Buderwitz’s intimidatingly elegant set with its clean classical lines. Serrand and Epp, formerly of the Theatre de la Jeune troupe, have long been famous for their ingenuity, their gift for defying expectations with startling juxtapositions of style and tone…For the most part this Tartuffe targets the brain more than the funny bone. Serrand has something deadly serious in mind when it comes to the nature of gender, the architecture of power and the thrall of corruption, and that’s what makes this Tartuffe so arresting.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
“Molière’s Tartuffe is so damn funny…and dark…and unsettling. Serrand’s production is tightly focused and performed with astonishing vehemence. This is comedy played at operatic levels, and it works…When we finally meet Tartuffe, there’s been such build-up of both a pious and profane nature that it would seem the actual man couldn’t help but disappoint. But Tartuffe is played by Steven Epp, one of the most capable actor/clown/otherworldly forces on the American stage…Serrand’s Tartuffe is what we’ve come to expect from the former head of the late, great Theatre de la Jeune Lune: gorgeous to look at, even better to experience the emotional thrill ride from laugh-out-loud comedy to shocking reality to outrageously delicious bad behavior. It’s easy to imagine that Molière himself would be pleased.”—Theater Dogs
Prologue: from the Artistic Director
I once had a professor who liked to say, “In comedy, a man slips on a banana peel and we laugh. In tragedy, a man slips on a banana peel and we cry.” His point, I think, was well taken. The line between tragedy and comedy is remarkably thin, and the consistent crossing of that boundary is the hallmark feature of the work of the great 17th-century French playwright, Molière. Perhaps because he was an aspiring tragedian whose life was plagued with obstacles of every variety, or perhaps because his formative years were spent in the countryside learning the comic secrets of commedia dell’arte, Molière’s work is a daring blend of the darkest and lightest aspects of human experience.
There is no better example of this than Tartuffe, a play whose humor was so threatening to the court of Louis XIV that the king banned the play from being performed for five years. The king himself was allegedly a fan of the play, but the hue and cry among the clergy and aristocracy was so loud that Louis felt he had no choice but to declare it censored “in order not to allow it to be abused by others, less capable of making a just discernment of it.” Translation: Molière’s scathing critique of religious hypocrisy infuriated many of those in power, who saw themselves as the object of the author’s derision and the topic of public ridicule. They were being laughed at, and they weren’t laughing.
No one understands the delicate relationship between comedy and tragedy better than director Dominique Serrand. A lifelong student of Molière, Dominique works with a unique company of designers and actors capable of fulfilling every aspect of the texts. Led by the incomparable Steve Epp, who performed the lead roles here in Serrand’s productions of Figaro and The Miser, the ensemble is equally adept at delivering punch lines and gut punches. They move effortlessly from behavior that’s benign to brutal. Every slip on the banana peel evokes a different response. The effect is disarming and revealing, and combined with a stunning visual aesthetic, quite beautiful.
It’s important for a company like ours to return to the classics. Very few plays transcend the period in which they were written. Those that do become the standard by which we measure ourselves, both culturally and artistically. A great production of a classic work vivifies the past, illuminates the present, and inspires us to create work that dares to be important. Welcome to Tartuffe…
Prologue: from the Managing Director
Early March is always one of the most exciting times of the year—it’s when we announce the lineup of plays for the new season! You can read more about our 2015–16 shows in this program and in our lobby, but this year we have even more news to share with you.
Starting in June, our Thrust Stage will close for much-needed renovations. Our goal is to preserve the intimacy and cozy unpretentiousness that makes the Thrust such a perfect space, while bringing it up to 21st-century standards. The Roda Theatre will remain open and will be home to the world premiere of Amélie in August as well as the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced later in the season. We’ll reopen the Thrust Stage in January with a deeply moving family drama by Julia Cho, directed by Liesl Tommy.
The Thrust construction has provided us with an opportunity to introduce you to our new black box space: the Osher Studio, conveniently located along the Arts Passage connecting Addison Street and Center Street. (You can see it across the street from the box office.) The Osher will provide the perfect, informal setting for a Pirates of Penzance like you’ve never seen before—and one intended for the entire family. So bring your children, parents, grandchildren, and everyone!
Halfway through next season, the city will begin demolition and reconstruction of the Addison Street garage across from Berkeley Rep. But never fear! We’ve anticipated this and have made arrangements for you by securing a block of parking spaces at the garage on Center Street. When you subscribe to the 2015–16 season, you’ll be able to purchase guaranteed parking spaces for your performance dates. These parking reservations can be exchanged as often as you exchange your tickets, and they will cost no more than you are currently paying for the Addison Street garage.
Parking in Berkeley will be a challenge for about 18 months. But Berkeley Rep patrons who purchase parking through our box office will be protected from any inconvenience. You’re guaranteed a space regardless of what else may be happening in town that night. And your access to the theatres from the Center Street lot will be a short walk through the Arts Passage. Those with limited mobility can still be dropped off right in front of our theatres on Addison Street. Look for the opportunity to purchase your parking in advance when you subscribe to Berkeley Rep’s 2015–16 season.
So next season, you’ll get the chance to experience our sweet and intimate Osher Studio; you’ll enjoy the pleasure of a refurbished and well-preserved Thrust Stage; and you’ll have the chance to secure guaranteed parking while the city builds a better and seismically sound new facility.
Tartuffe and a select history of Western theatrical censorship
By Julie McCormick
If you sat in this seat 350 years ago, you would be risking excommunication and arrest. From 1664 to 1669, Molière’s classic farce Tartuffe was banned from public performances. Now, it is a beloved part of the Western theatrical canon that finds new relevancy with every generation of artists and audiences. But what was so inflammatory about this play that made archbishops and kings take notice?
Apart from the usual ire that religious critiques draw, the fact that Tartuffe was a piece of theatre made it doubly threatening. In pre-industrialized Europe, the only places that common people could publicly gather were at church and at the theatre. This largely illiterate population looked to the stage not just for entertainment, but also for information and the news. Contrary to today’s reserved audiences, theatregoers in the 16th and 17th centuries were far more raucous and participatory, hurling food, insults, and helpful suggestions at the stage. Mob mentality has the potential to take over any time a group of people assembles, but throw in alcohol, high emotion, and political critiques of a repressive government, and a theatre suddenly turns into a powder keg. Consequently, new plays met with frequent censorship because they threatened the church and crown’s tenuous social control.
Molière was writing at a unique moment in French history, when simmering political unrest was about to boil over into decades of revolution and bloodshed. In the late 17th century absolute monarch Louis the XIV still governed matters of taste as well as of state. Opulent dinners and over-the-top events at the lavish Versailles palace drove fashion across the continent; his generous patronage allowed artists to thrive. Until the days of liberté, égalité, fraternité, the king and those who had his ear controlled what was heard on stages at court and in the public sphere. As the 1789 French Revolution drew closer and the aristocracy lost its grip over the people, theatre in Paris grew increasingly bold and political. Despite his popularity with the aristocracy, Molière’s blend of impish humor and damning political critiques captured the revolutionary imagination and secured a place for his plays as enduring national favorites—a reputation that has lasted until today.
Tartuffe’s trajectory isn’t unique. Many of the plays we now consider to be classics were banned at some point in their histories, whether in their home countries or abroad. The social and artistic environments that produced the likes of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, and Lorraine Hansberry also threatened to obliterate their legacies. The consequences of limiting theatrical expression in France, England, and the United States has shaped the Western canon just as much as evolving artistic trends or ticket sales.
After the French Revolution won new liberties for the common people, state censorship of the theatre nevertheless continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Without the crown’s proprietary grasp on the industry, the theatre scene flourished—the number of venues went from four to nearly 50—but rampant paranoia in the new government led to a censorship law in 1792. Napoleon also tightened existing state control when he formed his empire in the early 1800s: performance houses could only be in prescribed locations, and all scripts needed the censor’s approval before production.
Once Napoleon’s empire dissolved and the Charter of 1830 secured the freedom of the press in the newly established monarchy, the state remained fearful of theatre’s disruptive power, and immediately closed Victor Hugo’s 1832 production of L’Roi S’Amuse. Though supposedly a play about François I, the character of the king more closely resembled the current ruler Louis-Philippe; the portrait was not particularly flattering. Despite Hugo’s valiant and impassioned attempts to lift the ban, L’Roi S’Amuse was not performed for another 50 years. Apart from laws prohibiting hate speech and restrictions during the war years, modern France has faced little theatre censure.
In England, things weren’t much better. Public theatres were not even allowed in the city of London itself until 1660. While the upper classes could attend private performances within the city limits, the general public had to trudge across the Thames to venues like the Swan, the Globe, and the Rose. The Master of Revels, who coordinated theatrical entertainment in the Elizabethan Court, had the power to shut down controversial productions and could imprison or even torture recalcitrant playwrights. In 1737, the Licensing Act went one step further, declaring that all plays had to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain’s office before they could be performed. The censor was not only concerned with restricting treasonous material; the Lord Chamberlain’s office also fancied itself an arbiter of good taste and deemed certain words and subject matters inappropriate for public consumption. This law was not officially repealed until 1968. The following day, the Broadway production of Hair, nude hippies and all, opened on the West End.
The United States
Though the United States Constitution has protected freedom of speech since the 18th century, a puritanical sense of propriety has been protecting delicate American sensibilities from bawdy content a lot longer. Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens withhold sex and occupy the Parthenon to prevent a war, was banned in the U.S. for nearly 60 years under the Comstock Law of 1873. This law, which kept obscene material from being sent through U.S. mail, also prohibited pornography, Tom Jones, and birth control. Stories of schools or communities banning or editing plays because of sensitive (usually sexual) content are a near daily fixture in today’s news.
During the Red Scare, censorship of a different sort abounded. From 1938 until 1975, The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated potential communist threats to United States security. Hundreds were called before the committee, including artists like Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller, Hallie Flanagan, and Charlie Chaplin. They were questioned about their political activities, personal lives, and the content of their work in an attempt to ferret out communist connections. Anyone who testified before the committee was blacklisted in Hollywood and New York—no one wanted to risk getting swept up in the witch hunt themselves. This culture of fear not only determined which artists had a public voice, but also fostered a more conservative aesthetic in the work that did get produced.
Why do plays endure in spite of the adversity they face? In part, nothing drives ticket sales like a juicy controversy. At the first public performance of Tartuffe, the crowd was so large that members of the audience nearly suffocated, and the production ran for a record 45 nights. Perhaps it is because these stories capture a deeper truth about their times—a truth that is too painful, insightful, or incendiary to be forgotten. Art invites people to think and draw their own connections, which is the most dangerous form of resistance there is. No one can control what goes on in an audience. It’s alive, and anarchic. Our imaginations take us outside of ourselves, our laughter helps us to remember our humanity, and our shared experience of a moment unites us as one. A group of people sitting in a room, listening together, and using their imaginations will always be a powerful and political act.
Looking for the magic of things
A conversation with Dominique Serrand
By Lexi Diamond
Tartuffe director Dominique Serrand is a visionary theatre artist with a long-standing relationship with Berkeley Rep. He took some time with us to shed some light on his journey with this production, and his view on making theatre today.
Lexi Diamond: How did your work with Berkeley Rep begin?
Dominique Serrand: It began with Don Juan, which was our first attempt as a company to work with an opera and a play, with opera singers and actors. It came from doing research on the legend of Don Juan—as you know there are so many Don Juans. We had our eyes set on Molière’s, and of course we had to listen again to the opera. After I heard Giovanni, I realized that there was no way I could ever do Don Juan without Mozart, because his music is so moving, so tragic, supernatural at times. So we mixed, very freely, Molière and Mozart, a fantastic and daunting experience.
It was on the Thrust Stage, and we had an electric car that actually moved—it was a rope trick—with Don Juan and Don Giovanni on the front seat, and Sganarelle and Leporello in the back seat. It was a ‘56 Chevy convertible with a rigged electric motor, thanks to your incredible technical crew who found the car, gutted it, made it into a convertible, and made it move. One of the most memorable moments was Steve Epp as Sganarelle. When he rants in act three, he was on top of the hood while we were driving and going wild in circles. It was just beautiful and haunting.
Can you talk a little bit about your approach to creating work? I’ve heard it described as devised and physical…
You know, I am not sure what devised means. I think it means everything I’ve done since I was a kid, which is to go find a space and create a piece in it that’s relevant to the world we live in today. So if that’s what devised means, that’s what we are doing…more specifically we combine artistic elements so they shape themselves together. Everything arrives at the room at the same time: the thought, the space, the company. And everything gets put together because of the particular people in the room, and always somewhat tied to the society of artists who are in that room at that time. The starting point is defined by the vision: why do this piece?
At the time of Don Juan, we felt there was such a level of political hypocrisy that it was time to do the piece, with the great threat of the religious right coming back very strongly. Then once in a while we just say, “Okay, enough of this. Let’s do a funny thing. Something that brings us joy, something ridiculous about the stupidity we live in.” And then we look at the magic of things, and that’s how we did Green Bird.
Green Bird was particularly fantastic because of its transformative journey. A lot of the shows we do take several steps; we do a first take and then we learn from what we’ve done, and we refine. Green Bird started at Yale—it was very big. Too big! And then we reduced. The main element of the stage was sand. And the sand was trapped. So actors could come through the sand, which was magnificent. I played in it, I came through the sand. We had sand in our beds for the entire thing.
By the time it came to Berkeley Rep it had become a Japanese-influenced Italian buffo of sorts. That was a beautiful, very magical production. Not just farcical, but very beautiful as well.
That’s the impression that I get of your aesthetic—that you mix the dark with the humorous, and throw it all together in really grand, epic images.
We try. We try. Although it depends on what the production is—some of them are epic and magical. I think that Tartuffe is more epic and less magical. There’s no set change, it’s all in one day, one long light cue (it’s made up of 400 cues, of course, but it should feel like one). It’s more like a tragic epic piece, with Molière’s vitriolic humor of course.
What drew you to Tartuffe, and what keeps drawing you back to Tartuffe?
First of all, I love to go back and do a production again, learning from the first time. You know, we rehearse so little. We used to rehearse 12 weeks, and now we are down to four and a half, five weeks, whatever, which is barely enough time to even touch the piece. So we like to remount and rework a piece.
The first Tartuffe came after Congress went to the republicans. Ha! Really?! And we heard all the horrendous stuff that they were saying about art and pornography, and the attacks against Mapplethorpe and all these great artists as pornographers. It was basically an attack on the National Endowment for the Arts, and an attack on artists in general. And we said, “Okay, well now it’s time to do Tartuffe.” So that was the first time.
Can you speak a little bit about your relationship with your actors?
The beautiful thing when you have a company of actors, which I’ve always had, even now, is that we grow. So Luverne Seifert, who started playing the young lover, now plays the father. Others have moved to play different parts over the years, so they all know how the parts play. And it all comes from a formidable legacy, the old commedia dell’arte companies where you learn the young parts as you start your career and then you learn the middle-aged parts and then you learn the old parts. And by the time you get to be the old ones, you’ve played all of them, so there’s a familiarity and a language within the company, which is very rare to see.
With such a strong relationship with the members of your company, what’s it like to add new ensemble members when you go to a new city?
Well, we’re always looking to replace people. A good example is when we did The Miser, which toured around the country, we knew from the first performance at American Repertory Theatre that some of the actors would leave and other actors who were not part of the creation would replace them. So there would always be someone new on the stage, someone fresh that could somehow bring some oxygen into the room, a new interpretation. Then some of the actors would come back and do it for a while, and learn that the show had moved and evolved. So we’re very used to bringing in new people. And we always hope it goes well!
And what’s your relationship like with designers, whom you mentioned you work with very closely in the room?
Well, my relationship, for instance, with Marcus [Dilliard], who’s the lighting designer and whom I’ve worked with for decades, is quite simple. We talk at length about the vision, the space, the purpose of the production. We talk at really great depth about how it should work rhythmically with, and how we create an image, a picture—I hate to say picture because I’m not a director who works with pictures—how we create a movement and an emotion with lights. And then I sit in the room and he lights it. And we rarely tech. I go through the show and he lights it and he times it. And we have more conversations and the next day we come back and he makes some changes. But we don’t actually stop and tech, step by step. Of course, if a light is particularly tricky, we have to make sure the actors are aware of that light so they know how to live in it.
So that’s my relationship. We have long conversations, we’re very close, but I never stop, I never ask for a light, I never say, “I think that’s too dark.” I say “You’re making me look like I’m doing something so somber, so intellectually complex.” And he adjusts and comes up with some beautiful adjustment that I barely notice, actually. I just look at the scene and say, “It’s the same as yesterday, only now I can see it beautifully.”
Of course, this would not be possible if we did not know each other very well. There is friendship and a lot of trust involved, besides enormous talent.
Is that the same way that you made work with Jeune Lune?
Absolutely. The operation closed, unfortunately, because it was in debt. A very sad story indeed. But the artists remained
It’s always a bit puzzling for me when we are in Minneapolis to hear people wonder, “You’re done. This was part of the past.” And we say: No, we’ve moved on, but we’re still here! We’re in a different place and we pursue the work. It’s not about brick and mortar, it’s about human capital.
How does farce play a role in this production?
Well, yes, Tartuffe was created, in its first version, as a farce in three acts. The production we’re doing is a production that is a result of all the censorship and all the rewrites—a production in five acts, the final one that he wrote. And so we looked at it very differently. We said, “Well, if the first one was a farce about devouts and bigots, the last iteration is one that is absorbed with the pain caused by the censorship and the absolute meanness that surrounded the production.” So our production reflects the fight that Molière was going through. It’s not at all a farcical interpretation. It’s more of a tragic approach. But at the same time, of course, the funny scenes, comedy scenes between lovers and servants are funny because they are.
What is the appetite like for farce in today’s audiences?
I’ve been distancing myself from farce for some time, at least a decade. I pursue the humor, of course, which is necessary. A part of me is funny, and that’s the way we are. But I think it takes different tones with maturity.
I think you can see it reflected in the older artists, where it becomes more muscular. The farce was more present in the younger years as a company. Of course when you’ve done it for many years, it’s part of your muscle, so it’s always there somewhere.
I think a great example is Luverne, who plays Orgon, the patriarch. Luverne has worked with me for years. He is a natural comic actor, extremely funny. And I asked him to not be funny at all. And it’s beautiful: really naturally funny actors, when they turn to tragedy, are often even more moving because they have a sense of their own ridicule. So it’s really, really stunning.
What do you think has evolved in you as an artist over the years?
I hate to say this, but a profound sadness at the political state of the country and the arts. On the other hand, I have been very invigorated by the challenge of what we must do to recreate an audience, and to do the work the way we think it should be done versus the way pundits say it should be done.
Who are your greatest theatrical inspirations whom you look to, from the past or present?
Many. From the past, of course, Ariane Mnouchkine from the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, that was a great influence. We started wanting to work with her, and she said no, we need more companies like ours, go and make your own. And that’s how Complicite got started, how we got started, how all these companies got started at the same time—we were all in class together, actually, within a few years. The whole point, Jacques Lecoq always said, was you have to go and create companies. You have to do the work, the work has to be seen, and you have to reinvent it.
I was a young man when the Theatre of Nations was created in Paris, and all the best theatre from around the world would come once a year, and we were exposed to the greatest. From everywhere really: the Polish, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Romanians, the Spanish, the Italians, the Dutch. So that was my influence.
Probably the second greatest influence for me was Pina Bausch.
In terms of the new, it’s a little tricky to figure out what’s happening. Right now it feels like the pot is simmering and we see movements, we see bubbles of interesting work, but the broth isn’t made. That is why we try to bring a lot of people to the process. Actors, mostly, but sometimes young directors, young designers, authors, playwrights. Even if they don’t work on the piece, they just come to observe.
Do you have any playwrights right now that you’re particularly excited by?
Yes, I do, but I don’t want to specifically pick any names. I just see some emerging voices that are interesting. It’s tricky because for a long time American theatre has been framed by the psychological. You know, people in a room, around a couch, what I call the living room plays, in which people share their tragedies and psychological traumas. Now, there is a new movement coming out. Some of these playwrights are more celebrative, and working in larger dimensions, for larger casts, larger spaces, creating larger stories. So I tend to approach or work with young authors, even if I don’t do their play yet, to just push them and widen their space.
Two decades with Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand
By Lexi Diamond
Bay Area audiences have enjoyed a steadfast romance with Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand, and this year’s production of Tartuffe marks 20 years since they began their celebrated liaison with Berkeley Rep.
These theatre-makers originally came to Berkeley as members of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, a beloved Minneapolis-based theatre company. Serrand co-founded Jeune Lune in France in 1978 shortly after graduating from École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. Epp joined the company in 1983, and in 1985 Jeune Lune moved permanently to the Twin Cities. Jeune Lune served as a force of challenging, nontraditional works of drama for 30 years, winning the Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2005.
Jeune Lune was known for creating innovative works of highly physical theatre. They built original pieces and adaptations by exploding and exploring source material to find new and relevant stories. Imaginative, absurd, and visually rich, Jeune Lune’s work was infused with elements of acrobatics, clowning, mime, and commedia techniques that the company’s founders studied under Jacques Lecoq, renowned physical theatre pioneer. They performed their pieces not only in their warehouse space in Minneapolis (where the company members were affectionately known by the community as “Luneys”), but also in regional theatres across the country. Though Jeune Lune shut down in 2008, Serrand and Epp have continued to create work together as co-artistic directors of the Moving Company.
Berkeley Rep’s relationship with Jeune Lune began in 1994. Tony Taccone—then Berkeley Rep’s associate artistic director—recalls, “I flew out to see their production of Green Bird and was knocked out.” Taccone brought them to the West Coast, where they performed Don Juan Giovanni, their operatic mash-up of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Molière’s Don Juan, and other classical texts. Over the next several years, Jeune Lune affiliated artists have graced Berkeley Rep’s stages many more times, bringing us Green Bird (2000), Haroun and the Sea of Stories (2002), The Miser (2006), Figaro (2008), A Doctor in Spite of Himself (2012), and Accidental Death of an Anarchist (2014). On each visit, these artists wore many different hats, sometimes serving as adaptors, directors, performers, designers, or combinations of these roles.
In the two decades since Serrand and Epp began sharing their work here, they’ve established a relationship with the Berkeley Rep community. Epp celebrated this bond in an interview with SFGate, saying, “I feel like I’ve built up a nice little history with the audience, a relationship…Work becomes more rewarding when you have that. They see a range of your work and get to know you.” This familiarity provides an opportunity for the artists and audiences alike to take bigger risks with each piece. What’s more, every show that Serrand and Epp bring to the bay becomes part of a larger conversation with Berkeley Rep’s audiences. This conversation is deepened and made more complex with each visit, giving each return, each new chapter, a unique dynamism. Such a vital connection between audience and artists is so rare and so special in theatre today.
Tartuffe on TV
Get a 15-second sneak peek at Tartuffe!
Get the skinny on Dominique Serrand’s intense and entertaining adaptation of Molière’s most popular play.
Photos courtesy of kevinberne.com
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Director Dominique Serrand and actor Steven Epp discuss Moliere’s Tartuffe in an engaging Page to Stage interview recorded live March 16, 2015.
The folks in our literary department offer up these additional resources for Tartuffe.
Molière and his world
- South Coast Repertory put together this informative piece about theatre in 17th-century France and Molière’s body of work for their own presentation of this production last season.
- Molière penned a number of eloquent responses to the censorship that the early productions of Tartuffe faced. This site has compiled his preface to Tartuffe and the series of petitions brought to the king over the years of the scandal.
- The full translation of Tartuffe is available online via Project Gutenberg. Please note that this more literal translation is quite different from David Ball’s adaptation used in our production.
The Comic Mask in the Commedia dell’Arte by Antonio Fava
- Molière drew heavily from Italian commedia dell’arte troupes, whose work relied on a number of stock characters. This book by Antonio Fava provides vivid descriptions of each archetype, including analyses of how they walked, how they would complicate plots, and even how they compare to modern sports figures.
Banned Plays: Censorship Histories of 125 Stage Dramas by Dawn B. Sova
- Sova’s book chronicles the censorship history of a number of controversial productions from around the world. Despite their contentious starts, many of the plays she discusses, including Tartuffe, Lysistrata, and The Crucible, are now classic works of drama. In each entry, Sova gives an account of the scandal surrounding the production, a summary of the piece, and suggestions for further reading.
On the makers
- A video interview with director Dominique Serrand, in which he discusses the comedy, tragedy, and turbulence of Tartuffe.
- Director Dominique Serrand, actor Steven Epp, and many of their associates studied under Jacques Lecoq, a legendary French instructor of physical theatre. This brief biography provides some insight into the life and work of this theatre icon.
Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual For Reading Plays
- David Ball, who adapted this particular version of Tartuffe, is also the author of a short book on play reading that serves as a theatrical bible to many theatre students. The manual provides a number of creative, almost whimsical, ways to interrogate and explore a piece of theatre, methods that enmesh the artistic with the scholarly.