The Show Must Go On: Student-Run Production of Tartuffe Triumphs Over Hurdles

Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

A Theatre and Dance Department-sponsored student production of Tartuffe concluded its run at the Arthur Wagner Theater in Galbraith Hall on November 17. Directed by UC San Diego Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) student Nicholas Raap, this contemporary interpretation faced many challenges before it successfully made it onstage.

The production was met with concerns from the start, as Raap had developed a very physically demanding style of training for the cast. According to producer and cast member Andrea van den Boogaard, “It [was] kind of similar to how dancers train, you’re gonna have aches.” For one of the actors, the training was so gruelling that it left them with a huge blood blister, impeding their ability to walk. Two actors left the production after the first week.

But then something changed. On October 15, two faculty members, Robert Castro and Robert Brill, organized an all-cast meeting to address concerns. For the next rehearsal, the cast spent the entire four hours laying out their issues with the production. According to multiple actors, Raap and the team really took this meeting into account and worked hard to resolve these problems. One actor reported that this pivotal meeting is what convinced them to remain a part of Tartuffe.

Even after these changes, the production had to overcome yet another hurdle, this time due to external causes. On October 25, Head of Undergraduate Acting Jennifer Chang sent out an email to the undergraduate theatre community, cancelling Tartuffe due to safety and oversight concerns which appear to have spun out of issues plaguing rehearsals in the first week. “A beautiful product does not justify negative or questionable means,” said Chang.

The actors, however, felt that these concerns were now unfounded. The cast and crew banded together to fight against the cancellation of their show. Boogaard opened up her home to the cast to function as a rehearsal and meeting space. They wrote a 15-page statement defending their project in which they argued that the unconventional process of Tartuffe, although challenging, helped them grow and learn as actors.

The cast was finally given an opportunity to present their case in front a faculty committee. Although they did not have enough time to finish their entire statement, after hearing their perspective, the faculty members voted to reinstate the show.

In spite of the numerous challenges this production faced—or perhaps because it overcame them—the play came alive during its run. The dynamic and engaging show was driven by the cast’s dedicated performances. Due to Raap’s movement-focused acting method, scenes in which actors ran, jumped, and fought with purpose were particularly gripping. In the case of Tartuffe, the trite saying “the show must go on” was truly taken to heart by its cast. Through collaboration and perseverance, what started out as a chaotic production became a spectacular triumph.

Raap will be directing The Misanthrope, also written by Molière, this coming winter.

Rohan Bhargava is a staff writer for the Arts and Culture section of The Triton. He can be reached at r2bharga@ucsd.edu.