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The Misanthrope brings 17th century France to Lehigh

Directed by Augustine Ripa, The Misanthrope is an ambitious semester long project that has required students to take a 4-credit course to prepare and learn about 17th century Paris, ballet, etiquette and Molière. The performance runs from April 16-18 and 21-24 at 8 p.m.; 2 p.m. Sunday.

Outraged by the flattery, dishonesty and “correctness” of society, The Misanthrope's hero declares that henceforth he will speak only the truth—whatever the consequences. Molière’s funny French play has been translated into English so that we can all understand it.

The cast of The Misanthrope includes Steve Wojitas, Alceste; Paul Fabré, Philinte; Kim Aquila, Celimene; Michael Ramses Cloud, Oronte; Luke Ranieri, Acaste; Josh Tonkay, Cilatandre; Diane Trinsey, Eliante; Leigh Dugan, Arsinoe; Jess Braiman, Basque and Gil Cnann, DuBois/The Guard. This is scene designer, senior John Pellow's, college scholar thesis project.

Augustine Ripa, professor of theatre, is the chairperson of Lehigh University’s theatre department. Ripa, who specializes in acting, directing and drama theory, received his MFA in directing from Northwestern University. He taught in the Drama School of Illinois Wesleyan University for three years before coming to Lehigh as an assistant professor in 1979. In 1985 he was named head of the division of speech and theatre in Lehigh’s department of English, and in 1989 he became the founding chairperson of Lehigh’s first department of theatre. In 1990 Lehigh’s newest department received accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST). He is currently an on-site accreditation evaluator for NAST, and serves on its board of directors.

As head of the theatre program at Lehigh, Ripa played a major role all stages of development of the Zoellner Arts Center. For twenty years he was a member of the graduate faculty of Loyola University of Chicago, where he taught in their Institute of Pastoral Studies and directed and acted in the summers.

At Lehigh, Ripa has appeared as an actor in a variety of productions including The Elephant Man, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Talley’s Folly, and The Tempest. He has directed numerous plays in the Wilbur Drama Workshop and the Zoellner Arts Center, most recently The Cripple of Inishmaan, Miss Julie, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Importance of Being Earnest, Speed-the-Plow, and Fences. He is a recent long-term member of the board of trustees of Touchstone Theatre, where he has directed several world premiers.

Ripa's most recent production, The Voice of Souls, a staged adaptation of Shakespeare’s sonnets, has had performances in Bethlehem and San Francisco, and is a current Touchstone touring show. His long-time collaboration with William George has resulted in the international tour of George’s The Kingfisher’s Wing , the saga of an early Baha’i martyr, and The Marriage of Munirih Khanum, the tale of two Baha’i women. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Professor Ripa resides in Bethlehem with his wife Sandra and their two children.

Molière's real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, but he changed it in order not to embarrass his family by being an actor. He was born in Paris in 1622. His father's furniture repair shop was located near two important theatrical sites: the Pont-Neuf and the Hôtel de Bourgogne.

At the Pont-Neuf, comedians performed plays and farces in the street in order to sell patent medicines to the crowds. Although not traditional theatre in the strictest sense, the antics of these comic medicine-men brought a smile to Jean-Baptiste's face on many an afternoon. At the Hôtel de Bourgogne--which the boy attended with his grandfather--the King's players performed more traditional romantic tragedies and broad farces.

Apparently these two theatrical venues had quite an impact on the young Poquelin, for in 1643, at the age of 21, he decided to dedicate his life to the theatre. Molière fell in love with a beautiful red-headed actress named Madeleine Béjart. Along with Madeleine, her brother Joseph and sister Genevieve, and about a dozen other young well-to-do hopefuls, Jean-Baptiste founded a dramatic troupe called The Illustrious Theater.

Tickets to The Misanthrope are available for $10. Call 610-758-2787 (7LU-ARTS) or visit Zoellner Ticket Services Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or two hours before curtain, or order online. Senior, student, LVAIC and group discounts are available.

Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004

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