Guild Festival Theatre: The Misanthrope
Sten Eirik on directing an open-air version of Molière's popular romantic comedy
Now celebrating its third annual season at the scenic Guild Gardens on the Scarborough Bluffs, the Guild Festival Theatre is transporting audiences to 17th century Paris with an outdoor production of Molière’s The Misanthrope. Directed by Guild Festival Theatre founder Sten Eirik, the show stars real-life couple Bruce Beaton and Sochi Fried as unlikely lovers Alceste and Célimène.
Here, Eirik talks about his approach to staging this famous social satire.
Theatromania: What inspired you to present Moliere’s The Misanthrope for the Guild Festival Theatre’s third season?
SE: The Misanthrope is perhaps the most insightful of Molière’s brilliant comedies. The title character is a Hamlet in the world of comedy. Molière has created a genre-bending, thought-provoking fun fest! How could we resist! Alceste denounces the foppery and frippery of his contemporaries, yet cannot stop loving the lady who embodies everything he despises.
He witnesses the new excesses and compulsions of an age that makes him feel like an extraterrestrial. Honestly now, am I the only one who can relate to this? Or are there those of you who have felt like you didn’t belong in a place where every living soul has their nose buried in a smartphone, Ipad or Itunes headset? Where social gibberish and intrigue travels at the speed of light on the internet. The Misanthrope is about Facebook etiquette in the age of King Louis XIV. And our stately performance venue at the Greek Theatre in the Guild lends itself beautifully to the exalted setting of high society in 17th century Paris, with crinolines, periwigs and the glorious music of Handel and Bach.
Theatromania: How would you describe this production in a few sentences?
SE: The set design is a gold-and-burgundy dressing of the majestic marble stage in the Guild Gardens. Costume designer Bonnie Deakin has spared no effort in recreating the lovely opulence and silly foppery of the era. Lighting designer Amanda Gougeon evokes the haunting colours of a Parisian mansion. The characters are revealed and defined through their paradoxical encounters with each other. All along, humour and insight go hand in hand.
Theatromania: Have you or the cast/creative team learned anything new during this process?
SE: I can’t speak for anyone else, but Molière always helps me remember not to take oneself too terribly seriously. And yet, the misanthrope himself dares to step away from the flock mentality and seek his identity beyond the superficial social fabric, which I would consider a useful exercise in this day and age.
Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from this performance?
SE: Some of the above. And a sense of the delightful ambivalence in having to take sides for or against the misanthrope. If we can mindfully observe our own foibles in others, we can also become less attached to them and less afraid to live outside the box.
The Misanthrope runs until August 11 at the Guild Gardens (201 Guildwood Parkway on the Scarborough Bluffs). Visit guildfestivaltheatre.ca for more information and to buy tickets.