Argan's Imaginarium

Lina Neidhardt, Nita McDaniel and Kathleen Deems asked me to meet them in the Paradox to discuss their RAW Project. Lina was on shift. I walked in with a group of people looking for their late-afternoon caffeine or nicotine fix, and Nita, who also works there, went behind the counter to help within the sudden rush of students. 

As I waited for the line to die down I looked around and saw Max Smith-Homes and Anna Baker, and realized we could have done most of interviews for this issue right then and there. The Paradox is a year-round hangout for many of those creating art on campus, but at this time of the year there appears to be a heightened level of excitement. I went back behind the counter to talk to Lina, Nita, and Kathleen about their project, as they continued to stimulate Reedies with beverages and conversation. 

Their project, I was soon told, is an interpretation of Molière’s “The Imaginary Invalid,” which follows a hypochondriac father who wants his daughter to marry a doctor even though she is in love with someone else. “It’s a satirical comedy, which we’ve taken and run with more conceptually,” Lina said. 

“No part of our project is really narrative or didactic,” said Nita. “I would call it primarily an installation, and secondarily a theatrical performance.” 

At first they wanted to put together a more theatrical performance, but felt that an installation would work better within the larger context of other productions being done for RAW. They also cited the importance stressed in RAW application, of how the obeject would be a manifestation of the theme of “Daemon.” 

Originally conceived by Molière as a comedie-ballet, their adaptation brings the viewer on a self-guided tour through several rooms, set up as tableaux vivant. “The narrative unfolds as the viewer walks through the different spaces,” said Lina. 

The tableaux do not feature the entire plot of the play, and are arranged without chronological cohesion, save for the two bookending tableaux that depict the opening and closing scenes of the original. 

“In a way its not even ‘The Imaginary Invalid,’ it’s Argan of ‘The Imaginary Invalid,’” Kathleen said, referring to the play’s protagonist who Molière last performed as on stage, having a coughing fit and hemorrhage before collapsing and dying a shortly after— although he did finish the performance. “We focus thematically on the scenes that dictate Argan’s trajectory,” Kathleen continued, explaining that Argan also provides the satirical lens through which the play should be viewed. 

There’s no dialogue and little direction, which Nita said “adds an element of spontaneity. We want the experience of the wanderer to be confusing and abrupt.”