Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, was born on January 15, 1622. Born into money, he spent years working as an actor in Paris, before taking up the pen to create some of the most known to French history. Borrowing elements from the Italian Comedia dell’arte, Molière’s plays lovingly poke fun at the French aristocracy and were so beloved by French society that they earned him the patronage of nobility and royalty, even the King Louis XIV and his brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. He is often thought to have invented the “comedy of manners”, a dramatic genre that satirizes the artificial cult of courtesies built by the wealthy. The playwright remained so influential, long after his death in 1673, that French is often referred to as “the language of Molière”.
Some of Molière’s most famous works include Tartuffe, about a wanderer who fakes divine wisdom in order to be taken to the house of a wealthy family; and The Misanthrope, about an aristocrat who struggles to cast off the hypocrisies of his countenance while falling prey to their allurements. These and many more will be brought back to the stage this year as France celebrates the playwright’s 400th birthday.
At the center of this project is the French comedyone of the only state theaters in France and the oldest active theater company in the world, dating back to 1680. Since 1799, the troupe has been housed in the Salle Richelieu, which was originally built in 1790 to be an opera and is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
For this season, the Comédie-Française will present sixteen pieces by and about the wordsmith until July 25, 2022. Seven will take place at the Salle Richelieu: Tartuffe; The Misanthrope; The Imaginary Invalid; The Miser; Scapin the Schemer; The Gentleman Bourgeois; and Jean-Baptiste, Madeleine, Armande and the Others… At the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, there will be three: Don Juan; Young girls affected; and Twilight of the Apes. And at the Studio-Théâtre, six others: From which shines the night; The Silence of Moliere; We will never be Alceste; Molière material(s); Forced marriage ; and Extracts of women.
Some productions can even be viewed in theaters thanks to a collaboration between the Comédie-Française and Pathé Live. Television, radio and podcasts will also get a share of the action.
Outside of Paris, dozens of other French cities, as well as universities around the world, show up to recognize their favorite French playwright. the Moliere 2022 project will keep an updated eye on where and when these productions are taking place. Pézenas & Montpellier will host the festival, Scenes of medicine in Molière. Fortune and European models, in May. Molière without borders will take place at the Théâtre Montansier in June. And Moliere Toulouse will host a variety of events starting in June. These are just a few of the many events going on, so check the website to see if there are any productions, talks or conferences happening near you. And, if there isn’t, you can always have a fun evening watching this 2007 French film about the playwright and how he became the one and only Molière.