Monday, July 21, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest (Blog #3)


This is the first in a series of interviews with cast and crew of Wilsonville Theater Company's  production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Kate Laney, the director of this Fall 2014 play sat down with me this past week to offer some info on her background, as well as insight into her directorial style. Here is the interview (modesty edited for publication.)

DeHart:  Would you provide us some background. Where were you born?

Laney:  I was born in Georgia. I'm a Georgia Peach. To a family of five; I'm the youngest of three girls.

DeHart: What was your first introduction to theater?

Laney: In the sixth grade. I was in "Little Bo Peep," cast as a boy. I should have known better as I was cast as a boy all the way through high school. In Little Bo Peep, I played a Count. The teacher picked me because she thought I was responsible enough and had enough talent to remember all the lines. I wore a 17th century wig and wore knee pants. The whole thing.

DeHart: You were a Little Lord Fauntleroy?

Laney: Yes. I also wore an itchy hat. I was twelve. My first play, Little Bo Peep. It was terrible.

DeHart: Did you get rave reviews?

Laney:  (Laughing) It was just for family and friends. But, I really enjoyed it. Getting up on stage in front of everyone playing a Count or Duke, whatever. It was like pretend on steroids.

DeHart: What was the most memorable thing that happened in your first performance?

Laney: I remember. I had to dance a minuet with the mother of "Bo Peep". I was awful.

DeHart: Of all the plays in which you acted, what was your favorite role?

Laney: The role of the witch in Macbeth.

DeHart: Why was this your favorite?

Laney: Because I got to play the part of an iconic witch with her memorable lines. You could really interpret the role however you wanted. I was in a body stocking and a feed sack. Boy did that thing itch.

DeHart: I take it they didn't have a big budget for costumes?

Laney: (Laughing) It was performed while I was a theater major at Catawba College in North Carolina. We did 16 productions a year. Each year you were in so many productions before auditioning to be in a play directed by a teacher.

DeHart: How many plays have you been in, as an actress?

Laney: Wow! 15 to 20.

DeHart: Directing. What was the first play you directed?

Laney: The Birdwatchers.

DeHart: My play?

Laney: Yes! Your play.

DeHart: So how many plays have you directed?

Laney:  Three. Birdwatchers, Miracle on South Division Street and now, Earnest.

DeHart: What are some of the challenges of producing a play at the Frog Pond Grange Hall?

Laney:  Having to deal with the actual physical space. The small size of the stage itself; not being a classical fifty-foot space with wings or doors, where you can move scenery off and on. You have to be very creative or produce plays like Birdwatchers and Miracle, where all scenes take place on one set. Basically a 'black box' stage. With Earnest, that has scenes in three different settings, I have to be creative in how those scenes come off. Scenes in London, then in Worthy Manor and in the garden; how to make changes to those sets. I'll have to think outside the box.

DeHart: Why The Importance of Being Earnest. Why did you chose this play to direct?

Laney:  I studied the play in high school. Particularly Oscar Wilde. His writing is very clever. I think of him as a Jane Austen style writer. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan. The day that Jane Austen doesn't make me laugh, you can put me in my pine box.  It is that way with Wilde, his writing is charming, smart, witty. I've read Earnest, seen it on stage and in movies. I've always thought I'd really like a crack at that. Those great characters, great lines, and just the lightness of it.

DeHart: Who's your favorite character in the play?

Laney: Oh! Lady Brackett! You know, the name of the play, Earnest, means being true. No one is really truthful in this play. The characters: There's Jack who invents Earnest for when he goes to London to goof off. At least Algie is honest and up front, yet knows he can pull the wool over Aunt Augusta's (Lady Bracknell) eyes in doing whatever he wants. At least he knows what he's doing.  Lady Bracknell likes passing judgment on things. In her interview of Jack as a possible suitor to Gwendolen, she comments on the surface of things. Like living in the right part of the city, and 'Oh, you make this much money?' She has great lines. She's what Oscar Wilde sees as the 'Upper Class', people with their phony pretenses. And, Oscar Wilde, a closet gay man who married and had children, could never be true to himself. And neither could any of these characters. The women, Gwendolen and Cecily are conniving and so shallow, can only fall in love with a man named Earnest.

DeHart: To wrap this up, what do you want to tell the public why they should see this play?

Laney: The words themselves. The words are so much fun. It was first labeled a 'Trivial comedy for serious people.' This play is a sheer, unadulterated frolic. Come and enjoy what Oscar Wilde could do with play-on-words.

DeHart: Thank you Kate. I'm looking forward to seeing how this production is cast after this coming weekend's auditions.
Kate Laney

 I will feature interviews of each member of the cast in future blogs, leading up to opening night on October 16, Oscar Wilde's birthday.

AUDITIONS to take place this coming Friday July 25, from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM, and on Saturday July 26, 11:00AM to 3:00PM at the Frog Pond Grange, located at 27350 Stafford Road, Wilsonville, Oregon. Looking for five males, two being 25 to 35, three being 45-75. Four female roles, two at 18-25, and two 40 to 75.  This will be a cold reading of selected portions of the script. For further information you may email WTC at:  OnStageAtWilsonville@gmail.com.

Dave DeHart

Wilsonville Theater Company



Monday, July 14, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest -- An Overview

Wilsonville Theater Company's (WTC) performance of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," opens at the Frog Pond Grange hall in Wilsonville, Oregon on October 16, 2014.

So, who is Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde?  If you have been living without books in a cave in Outer Mongolia, did not attend school, or have had no interest in theater, then you probably do not have a clue as to the identity of this most unusual man. One would think that with such a flamboyant name, young Oscar would live up to its flowery, rhythmic portent. Well, he did…in spades. Described by his friends and enemies as well, as witty, decadent, prolific, indecent, brilliant, competitive, sensitive, etc.; the litany of adjectives goes on and on, without really providing a definitive description.

This complex writer, poet and playwright, was born in Dublin, Ireland to Anglo-Irish intellectuals, Sir William and Lady Jane Wilde, on the 16th of October, 1854. Ironically, it was exactly 160 years from date of WTC's opening of his iconic play, "The Importance of Being Earnest."  No doubt we will have a birthday cake for our opening-night audience during intermission.

Back to the Wilde one. Oscar was baptized in the Church of England in Dublin, went on to graduate from Trinity College, and later from Magdalen College, Oxford. His circle of friends and classmates straddled a Victorian society where pretense and strict demeanor was about to run  smack up against an emerging aesthetical culture where "art was for art's sake", shunning politics and religious discourse. Oscar's mother, Lady Jane, was an avid Irish Nationalist and a member of the "Young Islanders." Many of her poems inculcated that young revolutionary spirit.

Although his mother's motivations were political in their basis, Oscar's 'revolutionary' spirit was directed more to society in general. His writings were satirical,  usually making a mockery of the "Uppers."  In Importance of Being Earnest, his final play, he  creates two Victorian toffs: Algernon, who takes on the faux identity of 'Bunbury' when away from the city, lives life day-to-day for the sole enjoyment of the benefits offered by his aristocratic family, then falls in love with his maiden cousin Cecily.  Jack, on the other hand, is a conservative country gentlemen who uses the pseudonym Earnest during his visits to London, and desires to marry Gwendolen, very much against the wishes of her mother, Lady Bracknell. The machinations that evolve are loaded with Wilde's potshots at high society. Described as a "Trivial comedy for serious people," this play with it subtleties is an exercise in genius.

The play opened at St. James Theater in London on Valentine's Day in 1895 to critical reviews.

Plan to attend WTC's performances, produced by Michael Gibson and directed by veteran actress and director, Kate Laney, on October 16, 17, 18, 23,24 and 25. A matinee will be offered on October 25. Tickets are available at the door.
And don’t forget, open auditions for this play will be held at the Frog Pond Grange, located at 27350 Stafford Road, Wilsonville,  on July 25 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, and on July 26 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.  More information is contained on WTC's website: www.wilsonvilletheater.com. Questions? Email WTC at:  OnStageAtWilsonville@gmail.com

Dave DeHart
Wilsonville Theater Company

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What's on stage at the Frog Pond Grange Hall in Wilsonville, Oregon?


For the first time, the Wilsonville Theater Company has announced an entire season in advance. That's right, like most theater companies, we have decided to present three shows each season, giving our audiences time to mark their calendars well ahead of time.

You don't want to miss WTC's 2014-2015 season filled with comedy, drama and adventure. To begin, this coming October we are presenting Oscar Wilde's hilarious comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest," a farcical comedy poking fun at the Victorian era's straight-laced customs. In this, Oscar Wilde's last play, he turns his pen into a broadsword, swiping and slashing at the "Uppers" while putting the "Lower Orders" in their place. His central character, Lady Bracknell, reminiscent  of Downton Abbey's Countess Grantham, attempts to keep her daughter, nephew and his friend in tow as they seek romance, while breaking through societal boundaries.

This show, produced by Michael Gibson, and directed by WTC's veteran actress and director, Kate Laney, with be performed at the Frog Pond Grange Hall on S.W. Stafford Road in Wilsonville on October 16, 17 and 18 and on October 23, 24 and 25 at 7:00 PM. A matinee performance will be at 2:00 PM on October 25th.
Auditions for The Importance of Being Earnest will be open this coming July 25, 2014 from 5:30PM to 8:30PM, and on July 26 from 11:00AM to 3:00PM. Don't be shy, whether you are  a veteran or new to the stage, come to the Frogpond Grange Hall and bring a resume and head-shot. For more information regarding the roles check the blog below.

In future blogs, I will post interviews of the cast and crew to further enhance your desire to attend WTC's version of this quick-witted and sharp-tongue romp.

The Rest of the Season:

Although specific dates have not been set, WTC will present William Inge's memorable drama, "Bus Stop" in February 2015. For the enjoyment of the entire family, C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," will be on stage in Wilsonville in May 2015.
Something new: The WTC is offering "Gold Membership Season 2014/15 Passes." Among other benefits, members will receive three performances for $30, a 20% discount. To keep it flexible, members can use the pass to attend all three plays, or bring a couple of friends to one performance. Passes will be on sale at the WTC Booth at the Wilsonville Fred Meyers on Friday, July 11, and Saturday July 12, from 9:00AM to 5:PM. Stop by our tent and chat with our board members, and receive your Gold Member Card..

So, theater lovers, mark your calendars and reserve an evening for classic stage performances by the Wilsonville Theater Company.


Dave DeHart

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Auditions for "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Wilsonville Theater Company will be holding open auditions for its fall production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and adapted by the Wilsonville Theater Company.

When and Where

Auditions will take place at the following days and times:

  • July 25 -- 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm
  • July 26 -- 11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Auditions will be held at the Frogpond Grange Hall, 27350 SW Stafford St., Wilsonville, Ore.

Roles Needed

The auditions will be for the following roles:

  • Two actresses ages 18-25
  • One actress age 40
  • One actress ages 75
  • Two actors ages 25 to 35
  • Three actors ages 45 to 75

Other Opportunities

Interviews will also be conducted for the following potions:

  • Stage Manager
  • Lights and Sound Technicians
  • Costumer
  • Technical Director
  • Prop Mistress

For more information, send email to onstageatwilsonville@gmail.com.