Since 2007, every year the Alliance Franҫaise de Columbia (the French Alliance of Columbia) has invited the local French speaking community to join them for a live theatrical performance of one of France’s better-known plays. In past years, the AF performed works by Molière, Ionesco and, in 2014, they performed “Le DÎner de Cons,” a famous play that inspired the American film “Dinner for Schmucks.”
“We always try to do plays that we think people will recognize,” said Jeffrey Persels, associate professor and French program director at the University of South Carolina and AF Club Théâtre member. “We do this for a club, but we also want to offer cultural events to the community to promote French study and French appreciation.”
This year the AF brings the community an original work created by Persels, who adapted scenes by the famous French playwright Molière to create the ultimate slapstick experience. Persels compiled the best lines and scenes from Molière’s plays to fit a new framework that tells both the story of Jean Baptiste (Molière) and the famous love stories from his plays. In “Molière 2.0,” love is thwarted, avenged, lost and returned again as Jean Baptiste struggles to keep his troupe afloat.
“Molière 2.0” contains pieces of “The Misanthrope,” “Tartuffe” and “The School for Husbands,” among many others. With the aid of Nadège Keller, a AF secretary, the language of the play was adapted to contemporary French to increase the play’s accessibility to the local French-speaking community. The lyrical verse typical of Molière’s plays is maintained in the speeches of the story’s aristocrats, who speak in verse while the servants do not, which clearly creates a series of comedic events.
Persels joined the Alliance Franҫaise de Columbia in 2007 when the organization began producing theatrical performances. Because he was raised by two theater professors, Persels has been involved in the theatrical world since junior high school, and his passion for the art did not diminish when he began his studies in French language and history. In fact, Persels has only performed in French speaking plays since he left high school, so now directing and creating original works in French comes naturally to him.
“It is more liberating doing theater in a foreign language,” Persels said. “It is a lot of fun. Whenever you speak a foreign language, it is like you are adopting another persona.”
The audience will be able to see Persels take on the new persona of Jean Baptiste in the performances on March 6 and 8, as well as witness the creative work of community members joining the AF from a variety of backgrounds.
“Our organization is not only composed of French instructors,” Persels said. “We have graduate students, lawyers and engineers that choose to participate in the AF’s Club Théâtre. We all love theater and rehearse once a week from September to January or February.”
Nadège Keller has been a member of the AF for 10 years and became the organization’s secretary in 2013. This is her third performance with Club Théâtre.
“We like to share our passion of the francophone culture with one another and we have one common love: the French language,” Keller said. “If you are in town this weekend, go see the play — it touches on universal themes that are still relevant today: love and deception, social strata and obsessive greed, to name a few.”
The Alliance Franҫaise de Columbia will perform “Moliere 2.0” at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 6, at the Columbia Museum of Art. The performance is free to students who show their CarolinaCard or $10 for nonmembers. For nonfluent French speakers, there is no need to fear — an English synopsis will be provided in the program.