Question authority, beware false prophets in “Tartuffe”

A deceitful, pious man abuses his professional status to defraud and swindle trusting citizens in “Tartuffe,” written by French playwright Moliere in 1664. This enduring play, which challenges ideas of authoritarianism and hypocrisy, is brought to life by Cornell students in a performance venture at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts Feb. 14–16. 

Department of Performing and Media Arts associate professor Beth F. Milles directs, in association with acting teacher, performer, and senior lecturer Carolyn Goelzer, and PhD candidate Kelly Richmond, who is the student assistant director and dramaturg. 

“Moliere wrote risky, soul-crushing examinations about society’s morals and mores,” says Milles. “In ‘Tartuffe,’ the stakes are very high. The play is an investigation of hypocrisy, false piety, and faith, and it warns against false doctrines that are too easily accepted.”

The immersive, live-reading event presents the period verse in a manner that is accessible to both those new to and those familiar with French comedic theatre. “We are investigating the play—its traditions, its necessities, its history,” says Milles. “Our work celebrates this examination, foraging its contemporaneity and replicating a classroom setting where the words and situations can and must leap off the page.”

Performances of “Tartuffe” are in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts’ Flex Theatre Feb. 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. There will be a talk-back following the matinee performance. Admission is free on a first-come, first-seated basis. The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts is located at 430 College Ave. in Ithaca

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