On December 5, 2020, Cairn students took to the stage in Chatlos Chapel for a livestreamed performance of Moliére’s 1673 play, The Imaginary Invalid. Because remote learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the production of Little Women in April 2020, this was the Opera Theater’s first production since Pirates of Penzance in Spring 2019.
Known in its original French as “The Hypochondriac,” this story follows Argan, a melodramatic sufferer of imagined ailments, as he seeks to obtain constant medical care through manipulative means. Despite his daughter’s love for Cléante, Argan betroths her to another man—a medical student—in an attempt to secure more doctors for himself. Meanwhile, Argan’s second wife Béline schemes to receive Argan’s inheritance when he dies. As Argan’s dependence and foolish trust in medicine continue, it is up to Toinette, the family’s faithful servant, to save the household from despair.
The selection of this play was timely for several reasons. With concerns about COVID-19 and rehearsal schedules for students on campus, this play called for a smaller cast and allowed for more distancing on stage. Additionally, the main character is a hypochondriac, which allowed masks to be seamlessly incorporated as a prop. Ultimately, though, this play was chosen because it is a comedy, and as Cairn faculty member and play director Dr. Michael Breece explained, “We could all use a bit of humor and fun in our lives right now.”
Junior Kayla Powlison served in the role of assistant director for the production. Preparing for this play served as a welcome opportunity for Kayla and her fellow performers to come together during a unique fall semester: “It’s been an absolute joy to watch our actors grow in their skills, to laugh until we have tears streaming down our faces, to play with props and costumes, and to pray together. Doing theater together turns you into a family.”