The Importance of Being Earnest opens Nov. 12 – 21, 2021 at The Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse Theatre (4045 University Way NE, Seattle).
What shapes your identity? How do you express who you are in public versus private spheres? What if who you are doesn't align with society's expectations? These are some of the ideas that Kelly Kitchens, stage director for The Importance of Being Earnest at the UW School of Drama, is exploring with glee. Kitchens and her team of graduate-student artists and designers present this cheeky Oscar Wilde comedy at the Jones Playhouse Nov. 12-21. Masks and vaccination (or proof of a negative COVID-19 test) are required for entry. More information about safety protocols is available on the ArtsUW website.
Ahead of its time for the 1890s, Earnest pokes at Victorian decorum with a tale of two carefree bachelors, Jack and Algernon. When Algernon discovers that Jack has been posing as someone named Ernest to escape to the city, he promptly travels to Jack’s country estate to pose as the fictional figure himself—much to the delight of audiences.
“These characters are constantly crafting and curating identity for both private fulfillment and public consumption,” Kitchens said. “If they had social media in the 19th century, I would absolutely follow them out of sheer curiosity and supreme delight.”
This production merges a Victorian story with a sleek, contemporary aesthetic reminiscent of a Vanity Fair photoshoot. As the UW School of Drama presents Wilde’s story of role-playing and double identities, the actors themselves will be stepping outside of roles they might normally play.
“Your identity encompasses who you are,” said Catherine Heiner, the show’s dramaturg and a third-year doctoral student. “But in curating an identity or a public persona, we want to emphasize how liberating that is. It's aspirational—a chance to embody everything you want to be. It can be a form of self-expression."
As a conduit between the playwright and the production, Heiner supports Kitchens' vision with research and resources throughout the rehearsal process. The two collaborators have been grateful for the chance to work in-person with fellow artists again, albeit masked and with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. The Importance of Being Earnest is the School of Drama’s first live, in-person performance after the nearly two-year disruption of the pandemic. And it might be just the ticket to bring some levity amid what continues to be a challenging time.
“With the sheer brilliance of Wilde's sparkling language and the delightful comic stylings when brought to life, the evening promises to drink like a delicious glass of champagne. Cheers!" Kitchens said.
For full cast, creative team, and ticket info, visit The Importance of Being Earnest production page.