Have you had any prior experience with this play?
You can’t be a playwright (at least not a comedy writer) without an acute awareness of Moliere’s contribution to the field of dramatic literature. There are so many standard comedic set-ups that first make their appearance in one of his plays.
My first experience with Moliere: I was probably 18 or 19 years old when I was cast in drama school in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, playing one of the servant roles (they all seem to have the same name!) Two things remain vivid in my recollection: during one performance, I tried to exit the stage and the doorknob fell off in my hand, essentially trapping me onstage. That was when I first learned the art of ad-libbing. The second memory, is that the words and the comic situation was just so delicious. I’ve long had an interest in 17th and 18th century drama. I think Comedy of Manners is one of the most exquisite enjoyable forms of drama—and I see it traced in a direct line from Moliere to Oscar Wilde to Noel Coward and up to the present.
I directed a production of Tartuffe in 2008. It also helps that I teach dramatic literature at the University of Idaho, and Tartuffe is a standard fixture of the curriculum, like Hamlet, A Doll’s House and The Cherry Orchard. So when Stephanie asked me to work on a new adaptation, my enthusiasm for the project was predicated upon the fact that I felt I was in fairly familiar territory. Having said all that, of course, the greatest limitation you can have as a translator or adapter of any play, are the many other translations and adaptations that you’re familiar with. So the actually writing phase, is one of erasing your own memory and trying to find a vocabulary that fits the given circumstances of the scene.
What specific challenges did you face adapting a play written in 1664 France to present day America?
The first question facing the translator or adapter of Moliere’s plays is one’s approach to … Read the rest