Menlo Drama Presents Molière’s The Learned Ladies
This past summer, Menlo Drama students took their production of The Learned Ladies to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the highly competitive American High School Theatre Festival. The show was so well-received “across the pond” that Director of Creative Arts Steven Minning decided the production would bring the right dose of frolic and fun to Menlo’s 2022-23 Drama season.
“I’ve always found it fascinating that a play that was written 351 years ago remains so timely,” said Minning. “Molière—the great French classical playwright—had the foresight to write a feminist piece that speaks to the idea that women have a much larger role in society than having a pot to stir or a button to sew. This fast-paced farce cleverly combines entertainment and education while using comedic satire at its highest level.”
The students loved performing the play for international audiences and Minning is eager to bring Molière’s story about the clash between family status and true love to the Spieker Center for the Arts. “It was clear that our students had found something they loved to perform and it translated beautifully beyond the walls of Menlo,” he said.
Menlo Drama’s The Learned Ladies features four returning cast members who were part of the cohort that participated in the Fringe Festival. Maya ’23 and Isla ’25 will be reprising their roles as Henriette and Armande, respectively. While Amory ’24, Beti ’24, and Ethan ’24 will debut in new roles.
“A big difference between doing this play in Scotland and at Menlo is that we have so much more to work with here,” said Maya, about the differences between the productions. “We have an actual set with couches and curtains that open and lights—we didn’t have any of that in Scotland. People should come see this production because it’s extravagant and fun, but it’s also really relatable and very relevant to today.”
“When we did this over the summer, we built the show from scratch,” added Isla. “Mr. Minning had to make a lot more cuts to the play to fit our time slot. The show is flowing a lot better this time. We had a structure that we could build from by performing it over the summer. Now, we get to refine things to a higher level with new cast members too.”
Amory, who is switching roles from her performance at Fringe to play Clitandre, added: “With this show, we’re able to go more in depth not just with the set, but with our characters too. We can think more about how a character actually feels and why they walk a certain way. And, for those of us who have done the show before, we can also help out whenever anyone is having difficulty with a line or their character. It’s also interesting to see how we do the play as different characters.”
“It’s a different show,” added Ethan, who plays Chrysale. “There are different intentions with the characters. We’ve already done it once and now we’re able to dive deeper into our roles.”
“People should come and see us in this play because it’s a really fun show,” said Beti. “It is genuinely funny and the costumes are amazing.”
Dr. Charles Hanson, a beloved history teacher at Menlo for 24 years makes a cameo appearance in the role of Vadius. Hanson had similar thoughts, “After hundreds of years, Molière is still laugh-out-loud funny. So you know he was onto something fundamental and hopelessly enduring about human nature. If you come see The Learned Ladies you’ll find out what that was!”
Menlo Drama has raised more than $58,000 for nonprofit organizations, each chosen by the cast because its work resonates with a theme in the show. Menlo School’s production of The Learned Ladies, will support Community Reading Buddies, a nonprofit organization working to close the early literacy gap in the Bay Area.
Performances for The Learned Ladies run January 28-29 at 7:30 pm and January 30 at 5:00 pm in the Spieker Center for the Arts. Tickets are also available at the box office one hour before each performance. Tickets are available for advance purchase at menloschool.org/tickets.