Dr. Steve Maddux of the French department, soon to retire, is directing French students to perform French scenes and a hilarious Molière play as the finale of a class on French drama.
On Thursday, April 21 at 5 p.m. in Carpenter 240, seven French students will be entertaining the University of Dallas student body with drama about medicine, specifically, doctors. These performances are sure to be much more enjoyable than a boring wait in a doctor’s office, however.
“French theater essentially begins in the 17th century, and Molière’s version of it is classic,” Maddux said. “He runs with doctor theme, which lays dormant until the 20th century.”
But why Doctors?
“It was an easy mark. It was a very particular group of people, and some people had complaints about them,” Maddux said. “In the 17th century they were not very good, and also they weren’t so powerful that you would get into trouble if you made fun of them.”
Senior Keelin Des Rosiers, a double major in French and English, will be acting in the upcoming performance.
“Dr. Maddux is very passionate about French drama,” Des Rosiers said.
Maddux’s knowledge of Molière, in particular, illustrates this.
“As a comic writer, Molière is head and shoulder above Shakespeare,” Maddux says, playfully aware of the controversy of his statement but quite serious about Molière’s exceptional talent as a comic playwright.
The students will perform Molière’s “Le Médecin Volant” (“The Flying Doctor”) in its entirety as the most elaborate and final piece of the performance. The farce features a clever servant who masquerades as a doctor to help some lovers.
The first scene the students will perform is a sketch called “Elle est Tout à Fait Normale, N’est-ce Pas?” (“She’s Completely Normal, Isn’t She?”), written by an unknown author. This play features a doctor who is not fake, nor evil, but exceptionally funny.
Next, will be scenes from “Knock ou Le Triomphe de la Médecine” (“Doctor Knock, or the Triumph of Medicine”), a famous three-scene comedy by Jules Romains, first produced in 1923. This play features a wicked doctor, who, in order to make money, convinces all the people he meets that they are sick and in need of long and costly treatment.
The French students involved in the production are excited for this opportunity to practice and perform their French.
“Attending this performance will expand, if only a little, our understanding of French life and French humor, specifically of French cynicism as channeled towards doctors,” freshman Sterling Daniels, who will play Doctor Knock and others, wrote in an email. “Besides … it’s a freakin’ Molière!! Also, rumor has it the doctors are, well, very dashing!”
Daniels’ own humor is a good indicator of what we can expect in these funny performances.
Des Rosiers also explains that the plays provide a venue for French majors to display their knowledge, since their oral comps aren’t public. Freshman Beatrice Dowdy adds that drama provides a challenge beyond ordinary French writing or speaking.
“When you memorize lines, you have to know exactly why you’re saying each word, so it’s necessary to sit down with the text and study it in a way you wouldn’t if you were just reading it,” Dowdy said.“I’m also getting a lot more experience with speaking and pronunciation than I would in a normal French class.”
Dowdy and Maddux both emphasized the need for more expression since most of the audience will not know French. Not all of the students in the upcoming performances are French majors, but all have a good command of the language, which has impressed Maddux.
“The directing and the set and the costuming … all aspects of the production are a joint-effort, of the eight of us,” Maddux said of the production’s collaborative nature.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with them,” Des Rosiers said about collaborating with the other French students.
Finally, Maddux welcomes all people to attend the upcoming show.
“Any who knows anyone in the medical profession, anyone who is thinking of being in the medical profession, or anyone who has been affected by anyone in the medical profession, should come see this play,” Maddux said.
Entrance is free and seating will be limited, so arrive early and prepared for fabulous French entertainment.