Miles Anderson talks “Tartuffe,” “La La Land” and the magic of theater

Courtesy of UCR Department of Film and Digital Production

Theater and the arts have always served as a medium of self expression. However, it’s easy to forget that starring in plays and movies isn’t always about the glamorous life and the big paycheck. It serves a purpose and it’s meant to be fun. Miles Anderson, the director of the upcoming production of “Tartuffe” by Moliere at UCR, sat down with me to talk about the play and the hard work that goes along with it.

Anderson has worked on various UC campuses as a director and has been at UCR for about three years as a contributing artist. Anderson explained how “Tartuffe” is written in verse and is a play that follows Orgon and his family and their fight back against the manipulative, wicked villain named Tartuffe, who is trying to take advantage of them. The story seems to be filled with lies and deceit, for Tartuffe is really evil, yet he poses as a simple, holy man.

Anderson has always worked with classics. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for 10 years. Back in 2015, Anderson directed Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” here at UCR. “Because of the success of that play, the chair of the Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production asked me to direct ‘Tartuffe,’” Anderson expressed, when asked of how he came across “Tartuffe.” “My wife is also a professor here so I was going to get a good deal anyway,” Anderson joked.

With “Tartuffe” being written in the late 1600s, Anderson was looking for ways to stray away from simply presenting it as a 17th century drama. “First I went to our costume designer Jason Estala,” Anderson recalled. Fashioning costumes for the 17th century time period is extremely expensive. One day when Anderson was scrolling through the pages of a magazine, he came across a band called “Adam and the Ants.” “There was something mischievous about this group and well I thought, Moliere was a bit of a mischief maker himself,” Anderson went on. He then brought up designer Vivienne Westwood, who creates out-of-the-box designs. Gaining inspiration from both, Anderson stated, “How about we look at this play, in terms of costume design, as ‘new romantics,’ which is a mixture of 17th century, 18th century and the 1980s fashion.”

Along with the unique costuming of the play, Anderson needed a set that would showcase the costumes. “Our theater designer, Jungah Han, has a created a beautiful set,” Anderson gushed. He also explained his music selection for the play. Anderson was able to find music similar to the punk and rock and roll sound of “Adam and the Ants.” His friend in Germany was also able to compose a piece called, “Tartuffe” that fits perfectly into the out-there sound he’s hoping to achieve.

Like all theater productions, the cast and crew are always going to come across challenges. “The biggest challenge is overcoming the verse structure and trying to make it sound natural and real. It’s a bit like directing Shakespeare,” Anderson acknowledged.

Anderson then went on to discuss how it’s been working with the cast. “They’re wonderful. They’re really fantastic,” Anderson said in a heartbeat. “It’s one of the most racially diverse casts I’ve ever worked with. It’s really difficult stuff and some of them haven’t even acted before.” He expressed how important it was to have fun, although it can be hard work. “I said to them from the very beginning, ‘Unless this is fun, it’s not worth doing it.’ I’ve really hit the jackpot with this one.”

Anderson also made a recent appearance in the 14-time nominated Oscar film, “La La Land.” “It’s very funny,” Anderson led on, “I was only on set for five hours.” Anderson was called by Director Damien Chazelle to come on set and improvise a scene, opposite Ryan Gosling. Anderson played a photographer named Alistair. “The whole time I was filming I was just thinking, ‘They’re not going to keep this in the movie.’ But it was all there,” Anderson smiled at the memory. He talked of the joyous atmosphere he experienced while filming. “When the set has a lot of love on it, that’s when people let go. That’s when their talent blossoms,” he proclaimed.
Speaking with Anderson reinforced the importance of theater and the arts. “I think everyone would have a wonderful time,” Anderson responded as to why UCR and everyone for that matter should come and see “Tartuffe.” Like all theater productions should be, “Tartuffe” will entertain, it will be instructive and an overall fun time. “Tartuffe” will have seven performances, starting Thursday, Feb. 16 and ending Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Arts Building Studio Theatre.

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