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An interview with Tartuffe director Dominique Serrand

Steven Epp and Luverne Seifert in South Coast Repertory's 2014 p

Steven Epp as Tartuffe and Luverne Seifert as Orgon in South Coast Repertory’s 2014 production of Molière’s Tartuffe, adapted by David Ball, directed by Dominique Serrand. Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

What was your inspiration for this production?
The very first time we approached this piece was when the religious right began comparing artists to pornographers. We thought, “Now is the time to do Tartuffe.”

Once you pursue a piece, you realize what you could do better. For the design, we wanted a 17th-century interior that could get very bright—we didn’t want a dark setting, hypocrisy should be in a bright environment. It slowly becomes reminiscent of a cathedral or a church within the home. The lights remain the same throughout: we wanted to start the show at the end of the night, when the family conversation about Tartuffe has been going on all night. The play continues all through the evening up to night again.

This production is coming from runs at South Coast Repertory and Berkeley Repertory. What has the audience response been?

Obviously it is a very strong piece, not the comedic farce Molière that people expect. It’s a more brutal piece, darker. The comedic elements are still there—of course, it’s Molière—particularly in the servants. But it’s darker, not farcical. The audience response has been very good. They didn’t expect Molière to be like that. It’s a powerful, moving experience. It is important for there to be strong production values. We want it to feel like a celebration and a pleasure for the audience to see the production. Even if it’s dark and brutal, it’s made for an audience.


Sofia Jean Gomez as Elmire and Steven Epp as Tartuffe in Berkeley Repertory’s 2015 production of Molière’s Tartuffe, adapted by David Ball, directed by Dominique Serrand. Photo by Kevin Berne/Berkeley Rep.

How do you expect D.C. audiences to react?
Considering what the city is, a big political capital, I think it will touch a nerve—but in a good way.

Will you share a bit about working with Steven Epp?
Steve and I have worked together for many years—coproducing, adapting, on comedies, operas, new pieces. We have a long, long history together. He’s not just a great actor but an author, an adaptor, and the artistic director of our new company, our baby, The Moving Company. We share a common language about how to approach a piece. He’s a true collaborator: we start at the beginning of a project and work together throughout the process to its production. Here, he is not just playing Tartuffe but was central to the process, in developing it, and how we went about producing the piece. He is also a great ambassador for talking to new artists and actors who might not be familiar with our work.

Tartuffe begins June 2 at Sidney Harman Hall.

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