Asad Javed ’16 is working this summer through an Emerson Grant to transpose the Molière classic Tartuffe into a number of new settings, in a project titled “Unholy Vanities and Holy Prose: A Reimagination of Moliere's Tartuffe through Costume Design.”
Javed, a French and cinema and interdisciplinary studies (film) double major, is undertaking this project in creative collaboration with Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Andrew Holland.
“The project was inspired by transpositions of classic plays and books across very different points in time and space,” Javed said. “The Lion King, for example, is simply a loose 'Hamlet' set in Africa with a pride of lions. 1999's ‘Cruel Intentions’ was an adaptation of ‘Les Liaisons Dangereux’ in a contemporary Upper East Side setting. Given that Tartuffe has themes and motifs that are so universal, (such as) the manipulation of religion for personal gain, we wanted to try transposing it in three different settings — 1930s India, contemporary Virginia, and the Garden of Eden — to explore the universality of its message,” Javed explained.
To this end, Javed and Holland will be designing and creating eight costumes appropriate to the eras and regions that they wish to portray. The project will culminate in a performance of Javed’s adapted Tartuffe showcasing the eight costumes in March 2016.
“I was always intrigued by performance, be it on stage or on screen,” he said, adding “the idea of transporting someone to a different reality was always remarkably interesting (to me), and to explore all the things that go into that transportation, from sets to costumes, has always been a subject of interest for me. That’s why designing costumes not just for one production but for three was something I was about which I was enthusiastic.”
Javed further expanded, “The reason why we arrived at doing (the adaptation) with Moliere's Tartuffe is rooted in my time in Paris during my semester abroad. We went to see a production of Tartuffe as part of our theater class, and my sheer admiration for the bard's work before that, coupled with how much I enjoyed that particular production all made it a piece I definitely wanted to play around with and explore over the summer.”
As with many who delve deeply into classic works, Javed has come to new artistic and intellectual discoveries through his adaptation of Tartuffe.
“The project is more creative than academic, and thus not geared to the arrival at some conclusion,” he said.
“However, while studying the play closely and then researching points in history that worked well with it thematically, I think the most remarkable discovery for me was how extensively the concepts of god and faith have been misused in the past for personal benefit. Across the globe and across time, from fables and fiction to actual events, it's staggering how frequently it's happened,” Javed remarked.
“The misinterpretation of faith as an excuse for violence is a prominent feature in contemporary times, and I was aware that it had happened often in the past; I just never quite realized how often.”
For Javed, this project represents not only a great intellectual opportunity, but also a unique melding of his academic pursuits. “Being a French and cinema double major, I can't imagine this being more in tune with my academic track at Hamilton,” he claimed, concluding “Costuming is such a key part of the filmmaking process which sells both the setting and the characters. Bringing that to a French classic that I've gotten to study academically in the very city it was first written and performed… It's a little of both of my majors coming together.”
Javed is a native of Gujranwala, Pakistan, and a graduate of the Lahore College of Arts and Sciences.