‘Importance of Being Earnest’ to be staged at high school

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home High School students will present the Oscar Wilde play “The Importance of Being Earnest” next week.

The students will perform the play at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, March 1 and 2 and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 3.

“It’s a comedy love story,” said Elizabeth Wilks, The two main characters, Algernon and Jack, pretend to be someone named Earnest, one in the country, one in the city. Two ladies fall for Earnest, and the plot turns on the confusion over identities in a light, funny drama.

The twists and turns don’t stop there.

Wilks, cast member Breyann Babbitt, a sophomore, and stage manager Natali Chase, a sophomore, rewrote the Victorian-era script, modernizing it, Wilks said. It was too modern, so they rewrote it for the 1920s.

Then, since just one boy auditioned for the play, some male parts are being handled by females in a reverse of classic theater when men played female parts.

“I think it’s kind of fun allowing the girls to play guy characters,” Wilks said.

She has cast 12 roles for the play, she said.

“We’re doing OK. We’re getting off scripts this week. We finally have a lot of our set pieces in place.”

Chase is getting the last of it done now, Wilks said.

Based on scheduling issues, Wilks took over drama this year from Alain Brown, she said. “I love being able to see the kids in an environment that’s not academic.”

She and her students produced “Shuddersome Tales of Poe” during the fall term.

“It went really well,” Wilks said. The new high school auditorium stage lighting arrived just in time for the production.

They’re doing a play each term, and in the spring, they’ll perform “Shrek” as a musical.

Senior Sidney Hooley, who’s played lead roles in a number of recent dramas, said the play “has been a wild ride” with the multiple rewrites and casting challenges.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but we’ve had a lot of fun with each other,” she said.

“I think it’s a really good test,” Hooley said of the female casting. “It’s stretching us in a lot of ways.”

Senior Annalee McIntosh, who is playing one of the male lead characters, said “I think it’ll be interesting to see how the audience takes it.”

Babbitt, who is playing one of the male lead characters, said she is working on deepening her voice for the part.

Going off script last week was rough for the actors as they adapted to the most recent rewrite, Hooley said, but they’re smoothing it out.

“This is definitely the earliest we’ve had props,” Babbitt said, and she credited Wilks and Chase for that.

“(Chase) is doing a wonderful job coming up with set designs,” Babbitt said.