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The Importance of Being Earnest opens at Saint Mary’s

Tae Andrews | Thursday, November 15, 2007

“The Importance of Being Earnest” opens tonight at Saint Mary’s on the Little Theatre Stage. Originally penned by playwright Oscar Wilde, the comedy takes place in England during the late Victorian era.

Notre Dame sophomore Will Haley stars as Algernon Moncrieff, a role that has expanded his esteem for Wilde’s masterpiece.

“I had read the play once,” he said. “Performing it really gave me a new appreciation for [Wilde’s] wit. Wilde supposedly modeled my character [Algernon] after himself.”

When performing such a famous and hilarious play, Haley said the original text presented the cast with its most enterprising task: trying to live up to the billing of such a renowned work.

“Performing this show makes us all nervous,” he said. “Trying to interpret the material onstage and make people think we didn’t kill it is our greatest challenge.

“We’re trying to elevate it in order to play up the humor. We have such a huge source. With all the wit that’s in the show, that’s where each actor can put his or her own spin on the material.”

Haley said the direction of the production allows individual actors to exercise creative freedom in trying to emphasize the humor of the show.

“Our director [Mark Abram-Copenhaver] has been great about letting each actor make his or her own choices,” he said. “He likes to leave a lot of it up to us, let us take the reins first and then push us in a direction. He’s been phenomenal.”

Stage manager Carole Deeter agreed. “Mark really looks for places where he can bring out things that are really funny in the script and highlight them,” she said. “So we tried to make sure those points are really emphasized. Almost every line in the play is a joke and very funny, so one of our approaches was to make sure everything funny will be perceived as funny.”

Deeter also said the production drew from the original source material in designing the stage aesthetic for the show.

“One of the things we really were pulling for we got from the script,” she said. “In the play, there’s a line by Lady Bracknell that says, ‘Algernon has nothing but looks everything.’ So for his apartment we lavished it out to make it look like he has everything and is everything. But he’s really just an eccentric person.”

“The Importance of Being Earnest” features a diverse, tri-college cast, including all four female actresses from Saint Mary’s, three male Notre Dame students and one male Holy Cross student.

“The cast has gotten really close,” Haley said. “It’s the kind of play that allows that to happen. The cast has really bonded, and I think it shows in the chemistry onstage.”

Contact Tae Andrews at tandrew1@nd.edu