January 24, 2023
By Michael Ryan
CSUN Theatre will begin the season by collaborating with the Department of Music to present the CSUN Opera production of Puccini’s La Bohème in March. The work, which premiered in 1896 in Turin, follows a poor seamstress and her group of struggling artist friends in Paris in the 1840s. The well-known work, a staple of opera companies worldwide, spawned the contemporary blockbuster Broadway musical Rent.
7:30 pm on March 9, 10, and 11; Matinee at 2 pm on Sunday, March 12
We travel back further for Moliere’s Tartuffe, which premiered at the Palace of Versailles in 1664. The tale unfolds as the titular character Tartuffe gains influence over middle-class landowner Orgon and his mother by claiming to speak with divine authority until the family finally devises a plot to expose him for a pious fraud. The original production was banned by the Archbishop of Paris, despite pleasing King Louis XIV. The Catholic Church saw that all copies of the original script were burned. A 1667 revision was also banned, and a third 1669 version is the play performed to this day. Tartuffe has since entered the English and French lexicon, with the Oxford Dictionary defining the word as reference to “a religious hypocrite, or a hypocritical pretender to excellence of any kind.”
Director Garry Lennon says, “It is a funny, witty romp of a play with some lessons about hypocrisy throughout.” Lennon discovered it while in college and it has remained dear to his heart. He suggested it to the Theatre Season Selection committee, specifying that it should be set firmly in Moliere’s period. “I felt it was important for our students to have the challenge of acting the piece in period costumes,” Professor Lennon says, “having to deal with the fans, the snuff boxes, the petticoats, the wigs (on men), the heels, and all of the conventions of 17th century France on a period set, etc., AND still find the truth and comedy in the piece. I guess I wanted students to fall in love with it the way I did in my education. There’s a reason the play is still produced around the world!”
7:30 pm on April 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, and 15; Matinee at 2 pm on Saturday, April 15
For the final play of the spring semester, we travel even further back to Lysistrata, a classical Greek comedy by Aristophanes that premiered in 411 BCE in Athens. The title character convinces women to withhold sexual relations with their men until they negotiate peace and put an end to the Peloponnesian War in this lusty comedy that explores sexual politics in a male-dominated society.
The approach to this production is still in development, but currently the idea is to set the play in the early 2000s with the beginning of the reality TV boom. It will be directed by a team of three students—Victor Cruz Martinez, Malu Pizzatto, and Autumn Renae Tatnall—two of whom were originally cast in the play before the pandemic lockdown caused a three-year production delay. Acting and Directing professor Larry Biederman has been mentoring students to direct for a few years now, often splitting the responsibility by having each student direct a particular character or act. Lysistrata will be the sixth production to be directed by a team of students under Biederman’s tutelage.
Professor Biederman says, “Given that we have literal and metaphorical wars going on locally and worldwide, as well as an increasing intolerance for toxic masculinity and ongoing trials in response to the #metoo movement, the idea of women empowering themselves to address conflicts instigated by men seems more than relevant. How great to celebrate the history of theatre by representing the above with an Ancient Greek comedy?”
7:30 pm on April 28 and 29 and May 4, 5, and 6; Matinees at 2 pm on Sunday, April 30, and Saturday, May 6
See the Department of Theatre’s Play Season Site for announcements and ticketing info