Seventeenth-Century Comedy and Independent Heroine Come to Life on George School Stage
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Issued: October 28, 2005
The Advanced Drama class at George School will perform Molière's comedy The School for Husbands on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5, at 8:00 p.m. in Walton Center Auditorium. The shows are free and open to the public.
According to drama teacher Nelson Camp, although The School for Husbands
was first performed in 1661, it carries a message that is surprisingly
relevant today--in Nelson's words, "If you love someone, you free them
to be themselves as truly as possible." The farcical plot revolves
around the romantic complications that arise after two elderly
brothers, Ariste and Sganarelle, are each given one of two orphaned
young sisters to raise as they see fit. Ariste gives his orphan
(Léonor) the freedom to enjoy society and follow her own mind and
heart. Sganarelle, on the other hand, locks up his orphan (Isabelle)
and trains her to become his wife. When a young man (Valère) enters the
picture, Isabelle falls in love with him and gets him to help her
devise an escape from Sganarelle.
Nelson said that the clever, independent character of Isabelle
prompted him to choose this play for his students. "I like that she
doesn't get squashed by her situation. For 1661 that was a pretty
radical concept," he said. "I like that liberating message."
The French playwright Molière (1622-1673) was known as a master of
comedy. George School senior Liam Scully-Wolfe of Doylestown,
Pennsylvania, said he has enjoyed having the opportunity to play a
comedic role. He described his character, Valère, as "a young,
lovestruck guy" and said he likes the humor that arises when Valère
becomes a part of Isabelle's plan for escape from the despotic
Sganarelle. Valère uses flattery to give Sganarelle the illusion of
control, and, according to Liam, "He's so caught up in himself that all
the compliments just go to his head."
Molière wrote The School for Husbands in rhyming verse in
French. Nelson's students will be performing a rhyming English
translation of the play created by Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet
Richard Wilbur in the twentieth century. George School senior Christina
Saggiomo of New Hope, Pennsylvania, said she learned in rehearsals that
the rhymes make it particularly important to focus on her character's
emotions; otherwise, the lines can easily sound like routine
recitation. Christina, who plays the role of Isabelle in one of the
performances, explained, "You don't want it to sound like a poem. You
want it to sound like something you're saying."
The meaning of the play's title, Nelson said, becomes clear only at
the end of the comedy when the results of the brothers' efforts are
evident. "It turns out it's the women who teach the men how to be
husbands," he said. "It really is about how our treatment of other
people can determine the outcome of the relationship."
As with all mainstage productions at George School, costumes are by
Liz Lukac, and sets are designed by Scott Hoskins and built by his
All George School students take four year-long courses in the arts.
In addition to theater arts, the arts department offers courses in
vocal and instrumental music, dance, video production, journalism,
painting and drawing, woodworking and furniture design, ceramics, and
photography. The arts department encourages students to be creative and
enjoy themselves while they practice and appreciate a specific art
form. In addition, students learn to be discriminating when they
evaluate their own and others' work.