First stop Twisp, next stop Broadway.
For only one night, Seattle University’s theater program will be taking Molière’s 1673 play “The Imaginary Invalid” on tour to Liberty Bell High School in Twisp, Washington.
The 450+ year-old play details the story of Argan, a wealthy French hypochondriac who forces his daughter to marry a doctor to cure the ailments of his own imagination. Because of the overwhelming malpractices and lack of medical knowledge at the time, chaos ensues, and the three-act play provides its audience with a hefty amount of comedy throughout its running time.
Of all the universities in the area, Seattle U is the only school currently taking a play on tour. The decision to take the show on tour was made by professor Ki Gottberg as a way to bring theater to a new audience. “[Liberty Bell High School] has a very enthusiastic audience space . . . why not bring a show from Seattle U over there and let all high school students come for free,” said Gottberg.
Senior Meme Garcia, who was cast as Argan’s maidservant Toinette, hopes going on tour will give the audience the chance to experience something like
“People who would never get to see [the play] before get to see it, and you get to interact with an audience that may have never seen or heard of ‘The Imaginary Invalid’ or may have never seen or heard of Seattle University,” she said.
Freshman Francie Mylet, who was cast as the apothecary, says that she is incredibly excited about bringing the show to Twisp, as the area does not have any movie theaters around and value live theater.
“It will be interesting to see what the audience will be like,” Mylet said
Additionally, Gottberg hopes the show will gain attention to Seattle U’s theater program. “This might be a fun recruiting tool for us,” she said.
While everyone involved in the show thus far is excited, going on tour might prove challenging for the show in terms of set design. Garcia does not know yet what the set will look like, but knows it will be more minimal than usual. “When you go on tour, you have to have a set that’s more flexible . . . it has to be something that can be built really fast and taken down really fast,” she explained.
For the actors, though, Garcia says not much would change. “Actors are really good at figuring out things as the show goes along,” she said. “You just have to be aware of where you are spatially. I don’t think anything will change in terms of the acting style.”
For Gottberg, the show gives insight into the characters’ personas, and she hopes the audience can connect those personas to the present day. “[Argan] is totally freaked out about control, he wants to control everything,” she said. “He is completely taken over by his weird worries and fears.”
Further, Gottberg believes that the show is more of a parody of narcissism than anything else. “[The play] makes fun of people who are so self-focused,” she said. “Nowadays, people have things done to them all the time, like manicures and hairdos, and all the things people try to do to ‘purify’ themselves that is, in my opinion, a sort of crazy narcissism.”
The original show takes place in seventeenth century France, but Gottberg plans on changing the time of the play to modern day. “I’m going to have to update some of the things in the play that happen, but other than that, I think the play is timeless,” she said.
Despite changing the time of the play, the intent is to keep Molière’s satirical approach of doctors and medicine. “Molière always made fun of doctors because doctors in the seventeenth century did horrible things to people in the name of medicine; he was very critical,” she explained.
Gottberg also promises that the play will deliver laughs. “It’s very funny. There’s a lot of sexual innuendo in it because it’s about the body, but also about the masks that we wear with each other . . . it’s a completely nutty play,” she said.
“The Imaginary Invalid” is currently in the rehearsal stages; it will open to the public on Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Lee Center for the Arts.