It's fun with Oscar Time.
For the past couple of months Oscar Wilde and I have had an intimate relationship.
No, there's nothing dirty going on since Oscar died on November 30th 1900. Theatre Orillia is presenting The Importance of Being Earnest as the final production in the 2015 season.
I first met Oscar- sort of, at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris a couple of years ago.
Tom and I stood in front of his tomb emblazoned with red-lipped kisses from adoring fans. So many people leave red lip prints that the Wilde family surrounded the tomb with plexiglass. Didn't quite work though because people manage to climb over the glass and kiss the monument anyway.
Maybe Oscar spoke to me at that point when we stood before his shrine.
"My Dear Fellow Robert! What have you been up to? Perfectly marvelous you dropping by like this. Would absolutely love to offer you tea and cucumber sandwiches but, well my Dear Boy, under the circumstances... maybe we could just chat for I'd like to talk to you about you performing my absolutely perfect play Earnest"."
Whether he did or not, here I am directing and playing the part of Algernon Moncrieff in Earnest.
We have a splendid cast! Some professional- like Clair Acott, Gayle Carlyle, Sue Dosso and Jim Dwyer. Others- Val Krausse Ted Tiffany, Bev Totten and Michael Abernethy, from the community theatre circuit. It was a first time professional experience for several actors but they seemed to suck up the atmosphere and the smarts from the rest of us and got on track in just over a week.
I am sure it has been an experience they will not soon forget! They should be proud of how they brought their characters to life in the words and in the "speak" of 1895 Victorian London.
After 10 days of intense rehearsal, I can now tell you we have a splendid, contemporary version of Mr. Wilde's Earnest. There are those who said and still say one cannot perform Earnest in present times. Hogwash, poppycock, absolutely absurd rubbish!
I believe this show works in present. Our audiences believe it too- especially both our Thursday audiences! It is amazing how well the dialogue stands up in 2015. I wonder if Oscar ever thought about his play being performed 120 years in the future?
Algy pulls out his cell phone at one point to make a note of his friend Earnest's country address.
We changed the word "dogcart" in the script to "Uber"- that gets a chuckle or to. Our Cecily is pregnant- and it shows. Oscar's words work there too. I read and re-read the script and realized how many lines of dialogue pointed to Miss Cardew's pregnancy- as is the case with real-life Cecily, actor Claire Acott. Of course, the audience has to believe and understand humour and they do. Friday night's laugh at Cecily's "bump" was a roar!
Thank you and the soon to be newborn has to take at least part of the credit.
Our set is simple with a huge, wool British Union Jack front and centre. The flag- given to me by my Dad, originally hung on the federal building in downtown Peterborough in the 1920's.We have Victorian style furniture in Algy's flat as a homage to the original production at the St. James Theatre in London. On stage right, a 1960's rotary dial telephone sits on what is part of the pulpit at St. Paul's Centre. Actually, Algy's on the phone at the top of the show while his maid- Lanee (usually played by a man as Lane) boogies to Roger Miller's hit 1960's song "England Swings".
Then, we whirl round a backdrop and voila it's a garden at a manor house in Hertfordshire! True Brit songs like "English Country Garden", Rule Britannia" and others populate our show.
The audience laughs and smiles are infectious in the hollow chamber that is St. Paul's Centre but the audience is mic'd so you'll hear every word. Being in that cavernous space continues to be one of the major obstacles to overcome both for cast and our Stage Manager Tom- to say nothing of the challenges of the dialogue- but it's working.
Friday evening some cast members had to pass through an AA meeting being held in Memorial Hall beneath the auditorium to make their way to the stage. Algy and Cecily exited through a side door, trotting along Peter Street a few hundred feet to enter through the front theatre doors to make their entrance.
We have had many delightful, positive references to our set and our reserved lighting design. My brother Scott and Husband Tom worked out the kinks with our LED lighting with me saying more red, less yellow, brighter, brighter. Our Box Office Manager- Mary Lou Kempton and Front of House Jo Anne Debreczeni keep the theatre running smoothly, welcoming audience members and selling tickets at the box office.
The dialogue is rapid and copious but we can assure you of a fine time.
So take some time for a little bit of EARNEST My Dear Boy. It's perfectly marvelous!
We play to October 9th at St Paul's Centre.
Check out our website www.theatreorillia.ca