Arts News: A Multifaceted Celebration of French Culture

As part of KC MOlière, Avila University Theatre Department performed the French playwright’s “The Imaginary Cuckold,” with (left) Tyler Lindquist and (right) Davin Zamora, directed by Matt Schwader in November. (photo by Brian Paulette)

This year marks the 400th birthday of the French playwright Molière, and Kansas City is going all out for the occasion.

Over the last two years, KCMOlière has infused the city with a hearty dose of 17th-century French culture. The project commissioned new works based on Molière’s comedies, inspired seven new translations, hosted lectures, toured schools, and even published a coloring book. A new pastry was crafted by André’s Confiserie Suisse, made specifically to pair with the new Joie de Molière dessert wine from Les Bourgeois Winery. Messenger Coffee also introduced their new Molière 400 blend for the occasion.

Given its massive scope, it’s no wonder this project was planned to span multiple years. The goal was both to stimulate an appreciation of Molière in a theatre scene that, while rich, tends to focus largely on English-language plays at the expense of foreign classics, as well as to bring national and international attention to Kansas City’s vibrant arts scene.

The timing of the playwright’s 400th birthday is especially fortuitous as it coincides with Missouri’s bicentennial, creating the perfect scene for KCMOlière to celebrate the confluence of French and Native culture that led to the founding of Kansas City as we know it today. Among the new works, the project commissioned is “Tartuffenthrope! (Crossing Cultures with Chouteau and the Osage),” written by Choctaw playwright Philip blue owl Hooser. A historical comedy, the play imagines exchanges between the French pioneer fur traders and Osage natives that led to the founding of Kansas City.

There are still a number of events to enjoy, including a production of Molière’s “The Pests,” with a new adaptation by KCMOlière President and co-founder Felicia Londré, as well as a contemporary adaptation of Molière’s “Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold” from Kansas City artist Nicole Hodges Persley, and a concert with Ensemble Correspondances, a group of internationally renowned French musicians specializing in 17th-century music.

For more information about upcoming events visit www.kcmoliere400in2022.com

NOTE: Due to COVID-19,a grande Molière birthday fête planned for Jan. 15 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has been cancelled.

Vivian Kane

Vivian Kane is a writer living in Kansas City. She covers pop culture and politics for a national audience at The Mary Sue and theatre and film locally, with bylines in The Pitch. She has an MFA in Theatre from CalArts.

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