Ashland University Theatre Puts a Modern Twist on Oscar Wilde's Classic Comedy

AU Theatre Puts a Modern Twist on Oscar Wilde's Classic Comedy

10/12/12 ASHLAND, Ohio - Ashland University Department of Theatre's “Season of Comedy from Stage and Screen” continues with Oscar Wilde's “The Importance of Being Earnest,” probably the most famous of all comedies.

This masterpiece first appeared on Broadway in 1895, was adapted for the big screen on at least three occasions in 1952, 1992 and 2002, and was turned into several "made-for-television" movies. Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Teresa Durbin-Ames, evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Hugo Young Theatre on Nov. 2, 3, 9 and 10 along with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 4. Area schools are invited to attend a special school matinee performance on Friday, Nov. 9, at 9 a.m. with seats available at $2 each.

Traditionally staged in the Victorian period, Oscar Wilde wrote this classic comedy of manners based on the wealthy classes of 1894 who cared a great deal about appearances while their favorite pastimes were to go out to see, be seen and gossip. Dr. Durbin-Ames asks, "Has anything changed in the 100-plus years since Wilde wrote this classic comedy of manners?" 

Since social media is now the place to see and be seen, Professor Durbin-Ames decided to stage this production in the present day with an emphasis on technology. As she explains in her director's notes for the show, people create profiles on Facebook and Twitter, and are connected to more people than ever before. How well do any of these people really know each other? Anyone can create the person they want to be just as Jack and Algernon have created fictional personas (Ernest) or friends (Bunbury) to allow them to live the life they desire. If Cecily and Gwendolyn were looking for men today, would they search match.com looking only for men named Ernest?

Furthermore, Durbin-Ames explains that Oscar Wilde was a social butterfly in his time and was known for his wit, wisdom and memorable quotes and wanted the attention. She believes he would have been very at home with social media and would have been a trend on Twitter, which he actually is in 2012. There are several different accounts for, and followers of, Oscar Wilde, and he will make a special appearance during this modern concept of his play.

Part satire, part comedy of manners and part intellectual farce, the script revolves wittily around the most ingenious case of manufactured mistaken identity ever put into a play. The play's protagonist who leads a double-life as "Jack Worthing" and "Earnest" is played by junior musical theatre major Jacob Poiner (Wellington, Ohio) while junior theatre major Mason Adams (Amherst, Ohio) is Jack's best friend "Algernon Moncrieff."

Jack's love interest "Gwendolyn Fairfax" is portrayed by junior musical theatre major Katie Mounts (Savannah, Ohio), and sophomore theatre major Taylor Stepp (Atwater, Ohio) is Jack's ward "Cecily Cardew." Musical theatre major Kelsey Bowens (Willoughby, Ohio) plays "Lady Augusta Bracknell," Algernon's snobbish aunt and Gwendolyn's mother; while freshman education major Josie Schave (Mansfield, Ohio) is "Miss Prism," Cecily's governess, who has romantic feelings for Jack's estate rector "Rev. Canon Chasuble," played by sophomore theatre and communication arts major Anthony Nicholson (Lancaster, Ohio). 

Other cast members include sophomore theatre major Nick Seemann (Bath, Ohio) as "Lane," Algernon's manservant; and junior theatre major Kim Lennox (Gahanna, Ohio) as "Merriman," Jack's maid.

The production's scenic and lighting designs are created by Assistant Professor of Theatre Scott C. Chapman while the costumes are designed by senior theatre major Jensen Glick (Hilliard, Ohio). Jacob Poiner is the sound designer, with projections co-designed by Professor Chapman and senior theatre major Michael Cook (Weston, Ohio). Junior theatre major Hilary Rheinheimer (Cleveland, Ohio) is the show's stage manager while freshman musical theatre major Colleen Mathias (Bloomdale, Ohio) is the assistant stage manager.

Tickets for the performances are $10 for adults; $9 for senior citizens, students, University faculty/staff; $8 for groups of 10 or more; and $2 for Ashland University students. They can be purchased by calling the Ashland University Box Office at 419-289-5125, Monday through Friday, 12 to 6 p.m.; or purchase online 24/7 at www.ashland.edu/tickets (additional fees apply). For more information about the department of theatre, visit www.ashland.edu/theatre, find us on Facebook or contact Tricia Applegate, coordinator of performing arts publicity and events, at 419-289-5950 or tapplega@ashland.edu.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.