The first theater production of the fall semester is almost here. The Ring Theatre will present “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde from Oct. 6 to Oct. 13.
A renowned poet, author and playwright, Wilde is best known for his novels “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1891) and “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (1892). From Dublin, Ireland, Wilde was a prominent artist in the aestheticism movement of the early 1880s, which emphasized making “art for art’s sake” rather than focusing on a deeper meaning.
His late 19th century romantic comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” tells the story of two young men — Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing — who utilize the fake name “Earnest” in order to escape the tiresome responsibilities of their mundane lives. The men fall in love with two women who both claim they wish to marry men named “Earnest.” However, hilarious chaos erupts as their identities are revealed.
Keenan Lyons, a senior BFA musical theatre major, will play Worthing. He is thrilled for students to come see this witty comedy that pokes fun at the societal norms and hypocrisy of Victorian society.
“The rehearsal process has been very rewarding,” Lyons said. “[Our director] Bruce Miller runs an efficient rehearsal which allows us to pay close attention to the intricacies of our relationships, motivations and physicality. Our performance becomes that much more specific.”
Dominique Karanfilian, a senior BFA musical theatre major, plays Gwendolen Fairfax in this production. She explains how the rehearsal process has stretched her acting abilities.
“Stripping your body of contemporary movements, especially when trying to tell a story, is much harder than I thought,” Karanfilian said. “I’m having such a fun time learning about how societal status at the time influenced even small things, like the way you sit down.”
Though practices like sitting in a corset for hours on end were difficult, the rehearsal process has been memorable and rewarding on many levels.
“My favorite part of working on this show though has to be the use of fans during the time period,” Karanfilian said. “There is something so extravagantly expressive about them — nothing provides emphasis to a woman’s point like a good fan wave.”
Lyons is excited for students to see the scene where Lady Bracknell — Algernon’s snobbish and overbearing aunt — interviews Jack to see if he is a “respectable” candidate for her daughter, Gwendolyn.
”She bombards Jack with a series of questions about his background and family life, all in a very serious manner,” Lyons said. “The formality with which she approaches these mundane questions adds an element of absurdity, and I always look forward to this moment.”
The cast urges UM students to experience the play and join in on the fun while all enjoy a good laugh at Wilde’s timeless comedic writing.
“When it comes down to it, some things never change, and Oscar Wilde’s satire of the extravagant struggles and reactions of upper class issues is one of them, with a fun twist of romance to top it all off,” Karanfilian said.
Lyons said that Wilde wants audiences to watch the play and laugh at themselves.
“By following Wilde’s music within the language, it lifts the play from pure realism into a heightened reality that makes it farcical,” Lyons said.
Though Wilde dives into the realm of absurdity, Lyons also noted that the play’s universal themes will resonate with modern-day audiences.
“The play is timeless in a way,” Lyons said. “There are all sorts of societal pressures on each character to play a certain role, just as there are today.”
“The Importance of Being Earnest” opens at the Ring on Oct. 6. Tickets have not yet gone on sale, but interested students can contact the Ring Theatre box office at 305-284-3355. Hours run Wednesday through Friday from 12-4pm.