It’s tea time in London, summer 1906, and Algernon Moncrieff is in the midst of confronting his friend about the inscription found within his misplaced pocket watch. “Besides, your name isn’t Jack at all; it’s Ernest,” Algernon exclaimed.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest has been performed as a Fine Arts Series production three times before at the College, most recently in 2013. In the play, two gentlemen both take the name Ernest as they each strive to win the hearts of the women they love. The cast of characters hold to ideals and hinge decisions on details that don’t truly matter by the production’s conclusion. While the comedy is an English satire on social trivialities of Wilde’s time, the wit and humor found throughout are still enjoyed by audiences today.
In the weeks leading up to performances, rehearsals steadily felt more alive and authentic. Costumes, makeup, lights, sound, and each set all came together to immerse the cast within the world of their characters. “Every time I came to rehearsal, new details were added to or refined on the sets,” said Kurstin Hine (Jr., MI), who played Jack’s young ward, Cecily Cardew. “It was so much easier to embody my character when physically looking into her world and prancing around the staple settings of her life.”
While observing the changes surrounding them, the actors became more attuned to their character’s reality and those they shared it with. “The personality of Algernon is completely different from my own, and finding the right way to portray his character and personality has been an adventure,” said Matthew McIntyre (Sr., GA), one of the two actors playing the character.
“Every cast member has the same starting point,” said Rachel Wykle (Sr., TN), who played Lady Bracknell, Algernon’s distinguished aunt. “No actor is exactly what the director wants during auditions. The director has to see what they want in an actor and mold them into their vision. We are all individual works of art in a beautiful masterpiece of creativity.”
“Lady Bracknell is an unstoppable force of nature, and she commands respect by the dignified way she carries herself,” Rachel continued. “When getting into character, I listened to operatic music and let the music guide the way I walked up and down the hall. This gave her the grace and presence she needed to command the stage.”
“These actors literally take words written over 120 years ago and transform them into living, breathing characters. The result is mesmerizing and breathtaking,” said Liz Thomason, director of The Importance of Being Earnest. “They struggle through rehearsals, trying new things, adding new thoughts and gestures, creating character voices and stances, and finally, interacting with the other characters.”
“Miss Thomason has incredible insight and vision,” said Simon Haughey (Graduate Assistant), whose character, Jack Worthing, scrambles to preserve the fabrications surrounding his invented younger brother. “She’ll push you, but it’s easy to see that she knows what she’s doing and she will help you to reach your best.”
This cast was able to try out something new regarding sound equipment. “We used hairline mics for the first time,” said Lydia Van Hall (Performance Studies ’18), who has enjoyed playing the eloquent and spirited Gwendolen Fairfax. “These mics hide in your hair rather than going over the ears or clipping on to clothing. There is so much more freedom for movement and expression with this system.”
Joshua Holmes (Jr., KY), who also played Algernon, enjoyed developing friendships among casts as they worked toward performances. “This cast and crew is a wonderful group of people. And they made it easy to spend so much time with them,” he said.
Dressing up and attending Fine Arts can quickly become a common “last hurrah” among friend groups before the semester ends. Of course, all students are invited to audition for the chance experience Fine Arts from a different perspective. “The productions on campus can be big responsibilities, but they can also be some of the most rewarding experiences as well,” said Simon Haughey. “I’d strongly encourage anyone to try to be involved in at least one production before they graduate. Who knows if you’ll ever have an opportunity like this again?”