‘The Misanthrope’ satirizes sincerity and society

'The Misanthrope' satirizes sincerity and society

April 21, 2015

"The Misanthrope," LaGrange College Theatre's latest production, looks at a world filled with deceit, insincerity and a fascination with gossip – issues that might be familiar to a modern audience.

Director and Theatre Arts Professor Kim Barber Knoll said there are things in today's world that will help playgoers relate to Moliere's 17th century French society.

"Imagine that everyone had access to your text messages, your private Facebook pages and your phone conversations," she said. "Imagine them being read aloud to your friends, colleagues and family. Imagine a society where you could say exactly what you think at all times – about everyone and everything.

"And then imagine the chaos that ensues."

Most of the characters in "The Misanthrope" thrive on being beautiful, popular and clever, she said.

"In that society, those qualities were heightened by larger-than-life grandeur, lavish praise, secret missives of love, pledges of deep friendship and frantic attempts to stay in good favor at the French Court."

However, things are never what they seem, and there is a constant struggle between what is true and what is in fashion.

Ashleigh Poteat, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts, used that dichotomy as inspiration when she designed the production's costumes and scenery.

"The play is about the conflict between sincerity and society, so I was able to show a character's conformity, or lack of, with costume choices," she said. "The costumes should guide the audience in what they can expect from a character. You should be able to look at a character and tell how much he or she buys into all of these social conventions, or how much he or she is fighting against them."

A period piece like "The Misanthrope" also offers challenges for its actors. Senior Madeline Sain said the key is keeping everything as genuine as possible.

"We have to adopt the language and style in in a natural way, whether it's Shakespeare or Moliere," she said. "For me, staying connected to the text, even though it is written in rhyming couplets, has been the most difficult. It is easy to fall into a sing-song that the rhyming words create, but I have been trying to push myself to think about what (my character) really wants to accomplish with her words." Madeline said audiences will love "The Misanthrope."

"It hilariously explores what happens when people stop being polite and let their true colors show," she said. "It's a very funny play with a lot of interesting characters, such as (my character) Arsinoe. She is a high-society woman who prides herself on her connections and her piety. However, she is ruthless in trying to get what she wants and doesn't mind stepping on others in the process. She's a lot of fun to play."

Madeline is one of three graduating seniors who will be performing for the last time on the stage of Price Theater. She plans to pursue a master's degree in acting, and received seven callbacks from graduate schools at the University Resident Theatre Association auditions in New York City and at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Chattanooga in March.

Austin Taylor and Elissa Morman also will be taking their final bows when "The Misanthrope" closes. After graduation, Austin will head to the Papermill Theatre in Lincoln, N.H., where he recently was hired for the summer as a member of the acting company. Barber Knoll worked for 20 years at The Papermill as an Equity guest artist and artistic director.

Elissa recently auditioned for Disney in Orlando, and plans to continue pursuing work in professional theater.

Another graduating senior, Kevin Metasavage, did most of the painting on the inlaid floor of the set. Kevin will head to a professional summer job at the Santa Fe Opera after graduation.

Madeline said everything is very bittersweet right now – when she has time to think about it.

"We've been so busy the past few weeks that it hasn't sunk in quite yet," she said.

Barber Knoll said the seniors have been excellent role models for their fellow cast members.

"They have set wonderful examples for everyone with their energy, professionalism and the way they've risen to the style of 17th century Moliere," she said. "We are so very proud of them, and will miss them."

Show times for "The Misanthrope" are 7:30 p.m. April 22-25 and 2:30 p.m. April 26. LC students, faculty and staff are admitted free. General admission tickets are $10, and $7 for senior citizens and non-LC students. To make reservations, email priceboxoffice@lagrange.edu or call the box office at (706) 880-8080. Box office hours are noon until 4 pm. Weekdays.

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