Daily Egyptian

‘Moliere than Thou’ contemporizes Moliere

Classical writing can be difficult to understand, but a former SIU student is trying to make one playwright more comprehendible.

Timothy Mooney, a 1977 university alumnus, will present his one-man show “Moliere than Thou” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the McLeod Theater. The show takes several characters of Moliere, a comedic French actor and playwright of the 17th century, and exhibits the wit and hilarity that characterized much of the artist’s work.

Moliere, whose real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, wrote plays such as “Tartuffe” and “The Imaginary Invalid,” which continue to be shown across the world.

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Mooney, an actor and playwright from Arlington Heights, began the process while being the artistic director of Chicago’s Stage Two Theatre Company. As a fan of Moliere, Mooney said he wanted to do his own adaptation of “Tartuffe.”

“I had a real vision of what that play was and the language surrounding it,” Mooney said.

In four years he created about a dozen versions of Moliere productions, all of which he took around the country. 

Mooney would travel to lecture about his company’s shows. However, one group he spoke to did not want a lecture — they wanted a production. Because he knew monologues from Moliere, he put together a one-man show of characters and history of the playwright.

He said Moliere is a relatable and funny writer. Mooney aims to make Moliere and his work easily understood.

“If I do my job right, it will be every bit as funny as “Saturday Night Live” or “The Colbert Report” had been,” Mooney said. 

Christian H. Moe, a retired professor from the theater department, agrees, saying he represented the playwright wonderfully.

“His aim is to make them associable to young college students,” said Moe, who has a theater in the department named after him.

Moe, who retired in 1996, taught Mooney, during their time at the university.

He remembers him as a good actor and student, and an even better leader. 

He saw Mooney in a production of “Tartuffe” at a dinner theater before the current SIU show, Moe said. The actor keeps the plot and iambic pentameter together, while also making it understandable.

“I think he is a fine example of a theater graduate who went on and made a living in a difficult profession,” he said.

Susan Patrick Benson, a voice and speech associate professor, said Mooney bringing his one-man show to SIU is important for the theater students, especially those who will be in the department’s spring production of “Tartuffe.”

“They will get to see how the whole package comes across,” she said. “It gives our students a chance to step back in history.”

The show involves specific iambic speech and various costumes such as large heels and wigs. This gives students a chance to work with different ideas, an aspect they might do later in their career, Benson said.

While the play is spoken in rhyming couplets, and is different from a modern drama, it’s still timeless and has visible truth today, Benson said. 

The story is about the titular “Tartuffe,” an impostor posing as a religious leader. He goes into the home of Orgon, who is unable to see the charlatan’s tricks.”Tartuffe” starts to take over and the house devolves into anarchy.

It shows an idea that is still relevant, she said. If a person allows anyone but himself or herself, like churches and governments, to run their lives, chaos will ensue.

“People very readily turn over their power to the religious doctrine and government,” Benson said.

“Moliere than Thou” is free and open to anyone. The funding for the event came from the SIU Fine Arts Activity Fee.

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacobPierce1_DE. 

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