Janie and I had a lovely night at the theatre a while back. We watched a crisp and energetic cast perform Oscar Wilde’s brilliant “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Athens West Theatre. It was one our happiest nights for the year.
I admired the efforts of Shayne Brakefield as a sometimes befuddled, often pompous local reverend (think Robert Morley in African Queen with a pencil-thin mustache), Janet Scott in full sail as Lady Bracknell, and Paul Thomas as the butler(s); mysterious, disheveled, inscrutable, vaguely obedient, barely competent, and clearly the mind behind every scene……not.
I have worked with all these actors before.
I know their gifts…and cherish them.
I know their habits and peccadilloes…and cherish them as well.
A week later I participated in a reading of Robert Penn Warren’s ALL THE KING’S MEN on the Carrick Theater stage at Transylvania with Joe Gatton, Sherman Fracher, Ellie Clark, Tom Phillips, Mark Mozingo, and Geoffrey Cobb Nelson.
I have worked with Joe, Sherman, Ellie, and Tom before.
Joe, Sherman, Ellie, Tom, Shayne, Janet, and Paul…
Together we’ve been to Dracula’s Transylvania, New Jersey, New York, a Midwest Mega-Church, Agincourt, Aquitaine, Deep South Mississippi, the magical forests of Shakespeare, Deep South Alabama, Upper-Peninsula Michigan, Russia, London, Pennsyvania, Scotland. We’ve been husbands and wives and daughters and sons and kings and vassals and brothers and sisters to each other.
We have history.
We have vocabulary.
When we step on stage with each other we have a big head-start to share with an audience; a dialogue that, in some cases, has been going on for decades.
These two stage experiences prompted me into a memory (what doesn’t these days?) of an early 80’s Guignol production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. This was, in retrospect, a wonderful cast for me; Eric Johnson, Martha Campbell, Walter Tunis, Lisa Thomas, Georgia Ferrell, Tim McClure, Ann Dalzell, and Paul Thomas (once more playing the butler – murderous, scheming, ever-expanding his role).
This production was directed by Dr. James Rodgers, and he created an atmosphere playful, quick, and creative, but fierce in language…a happy culture in which Wilde’s mots, bon et rapide, could fly.
And fly they did. At the first table read, our Lady Bracknell encountered the word “indecorous” in the script. She paused and inquired; “Is that pronounced; ‘IN-DUH-COH-RUS’?” To which another cast member replied; “No, and if you say it that way, that’s where you’ll be.”
I suspect Oscar would’ve been proud.