Originally posted at KC Molière: 400 in 2022.
Kansas City playwright Philip blue owl Hooser is working on a play that will tie together Kansas City’s French origins on the Native American land at the mouth of the “Canses” River with the French cultural heritage that fur trader François Chouteau brought to the area. And French cultural heritage means Molière.
Philip Hooser, Choctaw, is the author of Coyote Tales, which premiered at The Coterie, followed by performances at the Smithsonian Theatre, Washington D.C. His other plays include Loving Lucy at the Unicorn, The Women at Late Night Theatre, and Dottie at UMKC. Many will remember his creative genius in Plan Nine from Outer Space at the Fine Arts Theatre on Johnson Drive. He is a professional storyteller, who also acts and directs, produces Eat Their Words, gives Heart of American Shakespeare Festival ShowTalks, and is a co-host on KKFI’s The Tenth Voice.
Hooser’s comic voice ranges from sly sophisticated literary wit to groan-inducing puns. Who better to channel the spirit of Molière in a short historical (or is that hysterical?) comedy to be performed on the run?
Conveniently, Molière’s 400th birthday (15 January 2022) falls within six months of the 200th anniversaries of Missouri statehood (10 August 1821) and the trading post established by François and Bérénice Chouteau in the fall of 1821. Hooser’s play is planned for performance at the dedication of the François Chouteau and Native American Heritage Fountain as well as for touring to schools.
Hooser envisions his audience as the Native audience watching Chouteau’s attempts to communicate with a Native in hopes of winning permission to build a trading post. To show the cultural advantages the French would bring, he and his wife Bérénice and his brother Cyprien end up performing what Hooser describes as “a Molière mélange of three different plays trying to coexist and tell a coherent story. Tartuffenmiserthrope! Will it be curtains for Chouteau or will he find a happy landing? It’s historic comedy as ‘fur’ as the eye can see!”
Chouteau Fountain Founder Keith Nelson hopes that the fountain dedication can coincide with Missouri bicentennial celebrations, although the city’s budget has taken a hit during the pandemic. While planning is uncertain for now, there will be opportunities for commemoration of the harmonious interactions of the French with the Osage, and Hooser’s play will be in the mix.
According to Felicia Londré, Hooser’s play will be a signature event sponsored by KC MOlière: 400 in 2022 not only for its educational value, but because it pulls together Kansas City history, First Nations presence on this land, masterpieces of world literature, and the mirthful spirit of Molière.