The View from Here #152: OK, OR, WA, MN, MO, IL, OH, KY, PA, NY, ME, VA
About two weeks into the process, I had a run through of the show for some of the theatre department powers-that-be, and the laughs were coming full and fast.
Just as I was worrying about the financial outlay, a booking came through to perform “Moliere than Thou” at a university about an hour away (U of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma). I decided to give the actors the night off of rehearsal, with the strong recommendation that they make a “road trip” out to the show. I felt that seeing my show might be just as impactful as yet another run-through of “Tartuffe.” (It was an eye-opener for many of them with regard to clarity, and particularly “acting on the word.”) I put some clips of the performance up on YouTube, including this clip of the host’s very amusing 2-year-old son…
|Tartuffe (Taylor Harris) and Dorine (Kelsey Fisher)|
Our first night in the theatre space on the set was also our first night in front of a larger group of people, as the singers, dancers and technicians came to watch.
I believe that out of the thousand or more people that will have seen this show by the end of today:
There may be ten or twenty who are seeing their first play ever…
There may be one or two hundred who are seeing their first "classical" play…
Probably 900 or more are seeing their first Moliere play…
We have changed the lives of these people, some, ever-so-slightly, and some, profoundly. We will never know the impact that we have had…
Last night's production of Tartuffe was exceptional.
It was a surprise from beginning to end, and all good and positive.
What a tour de force by cast, production and directors alike. Theexecution appeared flawless to us on the front row, and the sheer amountof unconventional dialogue amazed all. The characters were animated andprojected most effectively. It was clear that preparation was extendedand demanding.
But what a result! My sustained applause to everyone who produced thismemorable evening.
And, a very special note of personal thanks from me to you and yourbright, refreshing students for welcoming me in a manner not to beforgotten.
I pushed north to Seattle, dropping in on my friends, David and Nicole, prior to a Monday workshop at Kent-Meridian High School, a program that had been run for the past twenty years by Jay Thornton, who’d been a skinny undergrad when I knew him in Nebraska in the early 80s! Jay wanted my Commedia workshop, which I generally only do once or twice a year, making me a little apprehensive, but Jay and his students were extremely receptive.
More than 80 people watched actor Timothy Mooney perform two one-man shows Sunday at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus.
The stage was set as Mooney scurried out, making the audience burst with laughter.
His first show was "Moliere Than Thou," which is about 17th-century playwright Jean Baptiste Poquelin, who went by the stage name Moliere. Moliere is forced to rely on his previously used material in a performance for the king because the rest of his crew is suffering from food poisoning.
"Mooney has a way of motivating himself based on the feedback he gets from the audience," said Amy Beuhler, a student at Southeast. "The way he adds comedy to Shakespearean-type plays keeps it funny and interesting. The jokes that he uses in his writing fit well with the rhyming of the lines. It's not hard at all to understand. I think that's why so many younger people are attracted to his works."
Hannah Burt was enjoying the event with her mother. "We try to attend as many plays as we can together," she said. "It's a great opportunity for us to enjoy the art of theater which we both love so much."
As for Moliere, "Mooney plays the role to perfection. Moliere was probably the greatest comic playwright of all time," Burt said.
Mooney would come out into the crowd and address various random people while still in character. At certain times he would ask for volunteers to go up on stage and read lines to take the place of Moliere's absent crew.
The second one-man show was "Lot o' Shakespeare," which uses a monologue from each of Shakespeare's 38 plays and six sonnets.
"'Lot o' Shakespeare' is always fun," Burt said. "Hearing one soliloquy from every Shakespeare play back to back like that is amazing. The Iago game is a lot of fun. It's quite similar to bingo. He randomly selects a ball from the spinning cage, and that determines which speech he is going to do next. No matter what the order is they still manage to tie themselves together in the end." Burt has seen Mooney's presentation before and has watched him play Hamlet.
Review: Timothy Mooney Adds Laughs to Shakespeare's TragediesArrow Reporter- Ethan Worthington
Though the crowd was small, the laughs were loud Sunday night at the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall. Timothy Mooney, the former founder and editor of "The Script Review" and former artistic director of Chicago's Stage Two Theatre, singlehandedly performed "Moliere Than Thou" and "Lot o' Shakespeare."
"Moliere Than Thou" opened with Mooney dramatically stumbling out onto the stage dressed as none other than the French playwright Moliere himself. He proceeded to apologize to the crowd for the absence of the rest of his acting troupe due to the fact that they all unfortunately ate the same bad shellfish from a local inn. He then acted out what he considers to be the best scenes from his plays by himself -- with the exception of a few willing participants from the crowd.
In "Lot o' Shakespeare," Mooney chooses from many Shakespearean monologues and twists them together, or perhaps more accurately throws them into a blender. Changing the order of the plays but not the material, Mooney created a satire of Shakespeare's plays that left the entire audience doubling over in laughter and many of them seemingly in tears.
"It was hilarious," said Justin Rose, a Cape Girardeau resident that attended the performance. Rose, who does not have much knowledge of Moliere, Shakespeare or the theater in general, still found that the performance was enjoyable. He said that he actually found that not knowing the stories being discussed added to the comedy because of the fresh perspective that he had on what was being said.
Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance Kenneth Stilson commended Mooney on his talent due to the fact that in order to satirize material you have to be not only an incredibly good actor but also an expert in the field.
"That's what makes John Stewart so great is that he is an incredibly smart man in his breadth of knowledge, with regard to politics and world events and religions," Stilson said. "As a comedian he is then able to turn these things upside down into a parody."
Stilson went on to say that in the case of Mooney he is not a comedian but an actor that has a talent for comedic roles.
When asked what kind of audiences he thought Mooney's performances would appeal to Stilson said that anyone could find some level of enjoyment in the show. High school students could appreciate it for its comedy, college students could enjoy how it is "out there" in its humor and theater and dance students were "going to enjoy the hell out of this."
|Abbe, Liam and Tim|
I’ve traded e-mails with the Illinois State folks for years, but until this year, I’ve only managed performances at Illinois Wesleyan, just down the road from them. I sent reminders to many of the ISU and IWU theatre departments, and was impressed when several responded that they were planning on coming, or were sending their students to attend.
The faculty and I hit the hotel bar after all was packed up, and they hinted at wanting a return visit in two years, now that they’d figured out how to support the event through student fees. The Language and Literatures department head noted that a student had given a quick review on his way out the door:
“Best. Extra credit. Ever.”
The audience was almost entirely silent.
As I performed, I wondered if the French teacher’s over-the-top endorsement had made the audience skeptical. The first bow after the “Misanthrope” monologue got no applause until my “Thank you!” cued them. And one fellow sat stone-faced in the front row throughout the show. He seemed clearly hostile throughout, and I later found he was taking some offense at the participatory nature of the audience interaction… as if it was an exploitation of unwilling victims.
I was quickly wisked away to a dinner that’d been arranged by my hosts, who were every bit as enthusiastic as always about the show, as were their students.
|Ferry arriving on the Connecticut side|
It was my second visit to Bowdoin College, the previous stop being 2004, and the French teacher arranged an acting workshop, a lunch with the French students, a reception after the workshop and a performance of both “Moliere than Thou” and “Lot o’ Shakespeare.”
My wife and another couple saw your performance at Bowdoin last night.My friend made the comment. For crying out load I can't even remember the lyrics to a simple song!Well you have a gift. You seem to be using it well. It was a terrific idea to put your material (their material!) together in such a unique way. And to give creedance to the concept of you being able to memorize the dozens of passages from so many different plays. We were all impressed. I hope you are successful enough to ease into your retirement doing exactly as you please. But of course that will be on a stage.My very best. You are continuing a meaningful tradition.Tom Paiement
Yes, you can quote me.I did go on youtube and saw a few of your teaching clips. Actually made me want to take a class at 69. Very interesting stuff. Great approach. You are a gifted communicator. For budding actors, your classes must be very exciting and rewarding.The very best to you.Tom
I took two days to get to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where my old friend Kathy Conery, the designer of my Shakespeare costume is the Costume Shop supervisor. (She helped me get some new buttons onto my white Moliere coat, and did a bit of upkeep on my Shakespeare jacket and pants).
The show was well received, in an interesting ballroom space in the student center, with some interesting mood lighting. For some reason, the scenes are not uploading to YouTube at the moment, but when they do, I'll link one or two here. (Meanwhile, here's a pic from somewhere in Ohio!)
|Somewhere in Ohio|
The next day, the French teacher introduced me to the Artistic Director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and I proceeded to work my way south. I've decided to spend the winter break in Orlando, Florida this year, working on several projects. I gave about five minutes consideration to staying up in Chicago or Minneapolis again this winter, but all it took was a slightly cool breeze blowing through my clothes to remind me of how quickly I tire of cold weather. And so, I've decided to hole up in the south, where I can study, edit, read and rehearse outside, if I wanted.
And so, here I am in Orlando, now, about to go apartment shopping. I've got another huge list of things to do, including working on a new one-man show ("The Greatest Speech of All Time"), editing some Shakespeare for a possible UCO project next year, and finishing off and publishing my long-planned collection of Moliere Monologues ("The Big Book of Moliere Monologues"), hopefully available very soon!
Miles on the Escape: 89,350
On the I-Pod: Emma Watson, “A Reason to Stay Up All Night”
Discoveries: I tend to get self-conscious about my relentless pickiness, although, for actors, and the audience, they may ultimately see it as perfectioninsm. * If I can acknowledge my own weak, or disinterested areas, I can identify spots in the production where someone else might well shine. * While reporters who expect me to essentially write their articles for them may be a pain in the ass, it also does mean that I get to write their articles for them. * Actors are subject to wild mood swings, generating wild differences in the quality of performance.They need a foundation of belief (in themselves) to build upon. * Sometimes, all of that publicity work is more than spinning your wheels. Sometimes it pays off in bodies in the seats, and excitement at the curtain call. * We never know the range, the depth or the impact of the work that we are doing. We can only look at the numbers and say, “It may well be…” * Ten years of doing this has begun generating a startling number of overlaps, with people who saw me back when they were students, showing up thousands of miles away from where they’d originally seen me… * Life overlaps.