The 2022-23 performance season officially kicks off with the School of the Arts’ production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which opens TONIGHT and runs through Sunday, October 23, 2022.
The play follows Jack Worthing and his imaginary brother Ernest, both played by Noah Moulton ’23, and his self-absorbed, mischievous friend Algernon Moncrieff, played by Derek Brigham ’23, as they pretend to be someone else to avoid burdensome social obligations. It also features sweet and innocent Cecily Cardew, played by Delaney Corcoran ’24, and high-class Gwendolen Fairfax, played by Jessica Sember ’23, who are in love with the same mythical suitor. When all four arrive at Jack’s country house on the same weekend, it is soon bedlam. Members of the cast gave us insight into how they developed their characters and what they’re most excited about for the show.
“My favorite part about being a part of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is the process that we all went through to find out so much about the character Jack and his relationships with the other characters,” Noah explained. “Diving into the character was a lot to process, especially because he is from an era that is wildly different than what we live in today. Creating mannerisms that he would use because he is so ‘proper’ was a bit challenging. Everything he does has a purpose. Every movement he makes, everything he says, they all have specific meaning and purpose.”
Delaney, who plays Jack’s ward Cecily, agreed. She started preparing for her role over the summer and pulled a lot of inspiration from the 2019 film version of “Little Women” as she worked on developing Cecily as a character.
“This is one of the hardest plays I have worked on because we speak in a British received pronunciation accent,” Delaney explained. “This has required me to work on a level that I have never had the opportunity to work with until now, and that’s learning a completely new way of speaking and reacting that makes sense for the time period and the world that Oscar Wilde created. I’ve lived in the world of Cecily for that last four months, working on and off the stage to understand her and why she acts the way she does. Now that we are at the end of the process, I will be sad to leave her, but I have learned so much about myself and my abilities as a performer!”
In order to set the scene, the cast has not only worked on their accents, but also done their research. The Dean College production is set during the 1920s, rather than the traditional 1890s, so they used this time period to influence their characters and relationships with each other.
“This led to many cast discussions on the Roaring Twenties and what our characters most likely experienced throughout the course of World War I,” Jessica explained. “Some of these characters were likely involved or so far removed from the war due to status and making those discoveries has led to a great depth in character that I hope the audience will enjoy.”
The costumes, created by Assistant Professor and Costume Designer in Residence Daniel Kozar, costume shop manager Ben Taylor and all the costume shop workers, also play a key role in immersing the characters and the audience in the show.
“The pieces really set the tone of wealth for the entire show and completely transform the actors,” Jessica said. They also enable the actors to really become their characters. “The costumes that have been crafted for this show are stunning,” said Derek. “But I am most excited for the audience to see the raw, relatable connections between each of the characters in the show.”
The connections between the play’s characters are made possible by the connections between the cast members themselves. With such a small cast compared to other shows, all emphasized that the entire cast became very close-knit through the rehearsal process.
“This was the first play that I have ever done, and everyone made it such an amazing experience,” Noah said. “I feel like the cast that I have gotten to work with have become so close to me and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
Derek agreed: “My favorite part about being in the cast is the intense, overwhelming pride that I feel towards the entire cast. This cast has spent a tremendous amount of time in and out of rehearsal laughing, crying and quite literally sipping tea to make this show and the characters in it the best that it can possibly be.”
As the cast prepares for opening night, they are excited to share these characters and their relationships with the audience.
“I am most excited for the audience to see the outstanding chaos that we have created on stage over the past month and a half,” Delaney said. “This show is so entertaining, there is never a dull moment and there are so many beautiful stories that intertwine throughout the course of the play. Every character has a purpose for being there, every character has a relationship with one another. I believe that we are putting up a version of the show that hasn’t been done before and that’s super exciting, but also super nerve-wracking. As actors, we never know how the audience will perceive the work we are doing, but I am hoping people leave this play laughing and full of joy.”
The Dean College production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” will take place in the Main Stage in the Dr. Paula M. Rooney Student Center at Dean College, 109 West Central Street, Franklin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
To learn more and purchase tickets, visit the Dean College Box Office.