‘The Learned Ladies’ premieres at Sweet Briar

Sweet Briar Theatre will present Moliere’s “The Learned Ladies” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, through Saturday, Feb. 28, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 1, in Murchison Lane Auditorium at the Babcock Fine Arts Center.

Henriette (bottom right) will never get to marry her true love if her mother, aunt and sister have anything to do with it. Top, from left: Amber Boyer '17, Taneal Williams '16. Bottom, from left: Ashlynn Watson '16, Anna Gerber '17. Photo by Anna ten Bensel '17.
Henriette (bottom right) will never get to marry her true love if her mother, aunt and sister have anything to do with it. Top, from left: Amber Boyer ’17, Taneal Williams ’16. Bottom, from left: Ashlynn Watson ’16, Anna Gerber ’17. Photo by Anna ten Bensel ’17.

Admission for the Feb. 26 performance is free for all students and teachers. The March 1 show will be sign-interpreted. Tickets go on sale Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, and are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for children 11 and younger and for the Sweet Briar community. Tickets can be purchased beginning Feb. 23 by contacting the box office at (434) 381-6120 or boxoffice@sbc.edu. To purchase tickets by credit card, please visit LynchburgTickets.com.

A pre-show dinner lecture by theater director Bill Kershner will precede the premiere at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, in Johnson Dining Room in Prothro Hall. The lecture is free, but regular Prothro dinner rates apply. Reservations for the lecture can be made through the box office beginning Monday, Feb. 23, at (434) 381-6120 or boxoffice@sbc.edu.

Guest-director Melora Kordos says she is making good on a promise she gave Kershner several years ago.

“Bill has been wanting me to direct at Sweet Briar for a long time,” said the Chicago-born actress and director, who moved to Lynchburg in 2009. “Two years ago, I told him I would keep my spring 2015 slot open for him. In his time here, Sweet Briar has never done any Moliere, and he thought now was the perfect time.”

It’s also the perfect play for a women’s college because of its many female roles, Kordos says. In fact, the only male in the cast is Lynchburg actor Scott Rankins, who will play Chrysale. The rest of the cast is made up entirely of Sweet Briar students, including Amber Boyer ’17 (Philaminte), Anna Gerber ’17 (Henriette), Ashlynn Ann Watson ’16 (Armande), Charlotte von Claparede-Crola ’16 (Ariste), Taneal Williams ’16 (Belise), Tristin Burke ’17 (Clitandre), Annabel Wallace ’15 (Trissotin), Rosalie Purvis ’15 (Vadius), Ruth Packard ’17 (Martine) and Rachel Altier ’17 (Lepine, Julien, Votary).

Published in 1672, “The Learned Ladies” is a comedy in five acts, written in verse. It was one of Moliere’s most popular works and still appeals to audiences today as a satire on academic pretention and women’s education. The main plot revolves around two young lovers, Henriette and Clitandre. The only obstacle in the couple’s quest for happiness is Henriette’s family. While her father and uncle (or aunt, as in Sweet Briar’s version) are in favor of the marriage, her father is under the thumb of his wife, Philaminte, who, supported by Henriette’s (other) aunt and sister, wants her to marry Trissotin, a “scholar” and mediocre poet with lofty aspirations.

Melora Kordos
Melora Kordos

Kordos, whose background is in classical theater, is excited about staging the play in its original time.

“We’re … having a great time working with the period physical styles and costumes,” she said. “These students are wonderful to work with. They are all very talented, smart, and eager to learn and explore new ideas and movement [that] takes them out of their comfort zone. This is a high-energy show, lots of physical comedy, and this cast has embraced it and run with the challenge since the first rehearsal.”

Kordos has taught in the theater department at Randolph College, directed in the Lynchburg College theater department and was the artistic director of Studio Roanoke and the Renaissance Theatre in Lynchburg. A professional actor and director for more than 20 years, Kordos has performed at The Shakespeare Theatre in D.C., The Folger Theatre, Signature Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Court Theatre and The Star Plaza Theatre, as well as at the Renaissance Theatre and in Endstation’s Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival. She has appeared in more than 50 plays and in various television shows, films and commercials.

Kordos received her bachelor’s degree from Columbia College and her M.F.A. from the Academy for Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theatre through George Washington University.

For more information about the show, email Shelbie Filson at sfilson@sbc.edu.