Wilde times ahead at Lincoln Hall

Cucumber sandwiches will be all the rage when the School of Theater and Film puts on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Lincoln Performance Hall from Feb. 26–Mar. 7. General admission is priced at $15, but students will only have to pay $6 if they purchase in advance.

Director Karin Magaldi, who recently staged six of Wilde’s children’s stories for Shaking the Tree Theatre, said she is passionate about the upcoming production.

“It’s comedy and we don’t do comedies as often as we should, but it’s very smart comedy,” Magaldi said. “I think some people think it’s fluff, but it’s not fluff.”

Magaldi said Earnest is perhaps the most perfect play from that era in terms of construction. With this type of comedy, however, the cast has had to be wary about not becoming melodramatic.

“You’ve got to be careful about getting into physical comedy, because it’s easy to get into slapstick,” Magaldi said. “You cannot do that with a piece like this. That’s why it has to be subtle.”

Devon Roberts, who plays the role of Jack Worthing (aka Ernest), said he has enjoyed developing what he calls one of his most challenging roles yet.

“My character has quite a few layers to it,” Roberts said. “Some days I’ll get one layer down and [at] another rehearsal I’ll have another layer down, and it’s just a matter of combining those layers together into a deep, meaningful character. You keep doing the work, and it comes through,” Zachary Messenger, who plays Merriman the butler, said he feels himself growing through each rehearsal, especially in a minor role.

“I’m playing a smaller character, so I don’t have as many lines,” Messenger said. “So it’s digging behind the lines to try and find your character, because it’s not really lined out in the text. You have to look past what you say and try to bring something to the table that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”

Tyler Miles, who plays Algernon Moncrieff has genuinely enjoyed working with the cast and playing around with the lines, especially those involving the infamous cucumber sandwich scene.

With this comedy of errors comes many expectations of proper behavior. Magaldi insisted on having a dramaturge to get every detail right. Dramaturges act as behind-the-scenes historians that give context to everything that was socially accepted and expected.

Getting the social details of the Victorian era has been a challenge for the cast.

“It’s about being authentic under the given circumstances so you really have to explore Oscar Wilde’s world, this time and history, to really get the given circumstances so you can be authentic,” Messenger said.

Roberts said when actors attend rehearsal they are expected to wear button ups and ties, if possible. The practice helps the cast assume the mannerisms of
the period.

“It’s fun but frustrating because you just want to be yourself and do what comes naturally to you, but there’s some fun in exploring a foreign culture of social expectations,” Roberts said.

While the men may be expected to show up in ties, the women of the cast have started to wear corsets for each rehearsal.

Because the girls are actresses and still need to be able to function to the best of their ability, the corsets can be loosened when needed as they make it more difficult to breathe, laugh and relax normally.

“It is like some rock monster giving you a really big hug for a really long time,” said Amanda Pred, who plays Miss Prism.

Taylor Pascal, who plays Cecily Cardew, Gwendolen’s counterpart, said she has had a great time playing with the fiery chemistry between
Cecily and Gwendolen.

“I’m really scared about laughing during the show,” Pascal said. “There are moments when we’re just watching each other and almost bursting from laughter.”