Tag Archives: Oscar Wilde

2001: An Earnest Odyssey

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Guignol Theater reunion on the set of the 2001 production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”

Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
We keep doing it.
Why?

If Mr. Wilde were asked, he’d probably point out the obvious; “It’s brilliant!”
He’d be correct…insufferable…but correct.

The brilliance of this script shines through in Athens West’s current production. The young Jack and Algernon (Samuel Lockridge and Mark Mozingo) were energetically possessed of too much vocabulary and way too much privilege for their own good, but just enough for our delight. The maddeningly charming young ladies, Cecily (Amelia Collins) and Gwendolen (Raylee Magill) dominated the second act, giving us a preview of how the married life of this foursome would evolve.

It was a good evening. If you have a chance, catch the show on this their closing weekend.

Yesterday, I wrote about a 1980’s Guignol Theater production of “Earnest” in which I participated. I could be insufferable and say it was brilliant (which of course it was) but, being in it, I cannot attest to the accuracy of my evaluation.

There was another Guignol production of “Earnest” in 2001. It featured an impossibly young Ellie Clark as Lady Bracknell and was set in the 1950’s. I expect Ms. Clark will essay the iconic Bracknell role again (perhaps again and again) in her career. I hope so.

This 2001 production also served as a reunion of former Guignolites. We gathered to rededicate a newly refurbished Guignol and to celebrate another generation of Mr. Wilde’s “brilliant” play.

It seems like we have to do that every 20 years or so.

Earnest Words

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1980’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” in the Guignol with Eric Johnson on the right and some duffer in spats on the left.

Janie and I had a lovely night at the theater Saturday night. We watched a crisp and energetic cast perform Oscar Wilde’s brilliant “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Athens West Theatre. If you can make it for their last weekend, it will be one of your 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.

Last night 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 recent 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……not).

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.

Vocabulary matters.

…born in the gutter, but…

We are a strange species.

We can and have successfully built a machine and sent it on a nine year journey to the farthest planet in our solar system and now added a machine to orbit and transmit pictures of Jupiter. What vision! What will! What faith! We should be so proud. These are things we did.

Yet, on our own planet we can’t seem to see past the next news cycle, the next p/l statement, or the next paycheck.

Now we’ve built an ark to deceive and entertain our children. I’m not as upset by this effort as most people seem to be. After all, we build “Magic Kingdoms” to demonstrate talking mice and mermaids and we spin webs of Easter Bunnies and Santa Claus. Yes, this insistence on the veracity of these otherwise useful fables can possibly damage the future credibility of parents who later suggest with similar fervor that drug usage and casual sex might be a poor decision, but these entertainments are part of the blessing/curse of living in a free land, and as long as public schools are not scheduling field trips to visit and public tax funds are not supporting them, I guess I can sleep tonight. I have to confess however, I wish the ark was in another state, not mine. That’s my problem…I’ll survive.

We allow ourselves to be distracted from all the needed and right things to be done…by flags…and which shade of skin and/or country of origin produces the most rapists or Rhodes scholars…or whether there is so much love rampant in the world that we must put limits on it. What foolishness, while our bridges collapse and Florida sinks below the waves.

As a child, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut to get closer to the stars. I wonder if the children of today might still be dreaming of becoming astronauts, but now it’s to escape the folly down here…or because there might be Pokémon on Mars.

Today’s pictures of Pluto and Jupiter declare differently. We can and have done great things; things that don’t include walls to further divide us.

We should not be pining over the passing of the “greatest generation”. We should not waste time scratching our heads wondering what happened to the baby boomers. We should be building on the successes of those generations and learning from their failures. That’s what thinking, UNDISTRACTED people do. Others tank up on stories about the Kardashians, Bruce Jenner, and Honey Boo-Boo.

Let them.

They have always been with us.  There’s no need to consult them until they’re ready to participate as informed adults. Let them amuse themselves. It’s OK.

The rest of us need to move on. There’s work to be done – good work. There are great and needed things to be done. They probably don’t include arks and talking mice.

I have to confess again; I still dream of becoming an astronaut. I’ll be in my back yard tonight, looking up. There’s a full moon and I think Mars will be high in the sky…with or without Pokémon.

“We are all born in the gutter, but some of us look up at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde.