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The Learned Ladies: A comedy in verse

by Michaela Thomas

The University of Tampa Speech, Theater and Dance Department is holding it’s spring semester play called The Learned Ladies directed by associate professor of the department, Robert Gonzalez.

The Learned Ladies is a comedy by the French playwright Moliere. Although this is not a Shakespearean play, just like Shakespeare it is written in verse. “I’m excited because this is a new thing for me,” said actor Corbett Ballard, playing the character Chrysale. “I’ve never done a full pay in verse before. I’ve done monologues in verse but nothing like this.”

The story is about a young couple, Henriette and Clitandre, who are in love. However, in order to marry each other, they must overcome the difficult obstacle of Henriette’s family. Henriette’s mother wants her to marry someone else, but Henriette loves Clitandre. 

This is a very familiar plot that we are used to in movies and TV shows, but instead of it being a dark and tragic tale, the genre is comedy. 

Now, while patrons will see a very polished product on the stage, the road to getting there is a bit difficult. The play itself is in verse, which means there is more difficulty in learning the material than it would be learning the script of a contemporary work. 

“It definitely is kind of a learning curve. There are some people in the cast who are a little bit more familiar with the language and meter and I feel like I wasn’t one of those people,” said actor Melany Uhrhammer, playing the character Henriette. “But honestly it gets easier and easier every time we rehearse and I’ve been getting a lot more comfortable with it.”

While it is hard to act in a play like this, there is an even greater difficulty directing such a piece. The director is responsible for making sure that when the actors act, they are doing it in a way that will relay a message to the audience.

This might seem like an extravagant task to some, but Gonzalez is up to the challenge. “I appreciate that Bob is as intelligent as he is. He understands human condition and human emotion on such an intellectual level,” said Uhrhammer. “Even with specific words, he’s able to point out how a character should feel.”

Now, this is a play that does deal with a more complicated style of language, but that should not discourage anyone from getting a chance to see this type of play. 

“Come into it with an open mind, while it is in verse, everyone is working their hardest to make sure that it’s attainable,” said stage manager Sophia Williar. “It’s not gonna be super flowery and poetic words, it’s a lot of the same language you will hear it just rhymes.”

Main stage theatrical productions are free for UT students and faculty. So, make sure to come and check out The Learned Ladies at the David Falk Theater. Performances are scheduled from Thursday to Saturday, March 26-28 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, March 29 at 2 p.m. 

Michaela Thomas can be reached at michaela.thomas@spartans.ut.edu

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