MC Theatre Department presents: "The Importance of Being Earnest"

MC Theatre Department presents: "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Sept. 14, 2012
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer

The Maryville College Theatre Department will present Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” Oct. 4-7.

In the play, two young gentlemen, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, use the same pseudonym, “Ernest.” All goes well with their secret identities until they both fall in love with two young women while using that name, which leads to a comedy of mistaken identities and desperation to be christened just to change their name for the sake of deceiving the ladies.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 4-6 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 7 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flex Theatre.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors, MC theatre alumni and area students. MC students, faculty and staff are admitted free, although a printed ticket is required for admission. You may purchase tickets online or by calling the Clayton Center Box Office at 865.981.8590.

The production is directed by Dr. Heather McMahon, associate professor of theatre at Maryville College.

“‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is one of the funniest plays ever written; Wilde had such a way with words – and was such a keen observer of the people around him – that the play has stood the test of time,” McMahon said. “Though the play is set in 1895, it still resonates as a spoof of ‘polite’ society, a comedy of manners that points out the foibles and preposterousness of the upper classes.”

Jack Worthing will be played by freshman Chase Condrone of Maryville. Algernon Moncrieff will be played by Walker Harrison of Loudon, Tenn., who is a senior at MC. Their love interests will be played by sophomore Sara Deatherage of Knoxville, Tenn., as Gwendolen, and junior Caitlin Campbell of Maryville, Tenn., as Cecily.

The cast also includes the following Maryville College students: sophomore Daniel Chandler of Knoxville, Tenn., as Lane; sophomore Daniel Noles of Knoxville, Tenn., as Merriman; freshman Matthew Beard of Clinton, Tenn., as the Footman; sophomore Cameron Hite of Kingsport, Tenn., as Dr. Chasuble; and junior Christiane Frith of Memphis, Tenn., as Miss Prism.

Robert Hutchens, executive director of the Clayton Center for the Arts, will play Lady Bracknell, the pompous mother of Gwendolen.

Senior Leslie Owle of Sevierville, Tenn., is the production’s stage manager, and freshman Allie Haskew is the assistant stage manager. Jennifer Luck is the technical director, and junior Rachel Jarnigan of Maryville, Tenn., is the assistant technical director.

McMahon said she chose the play as a challenge – both to herself and to the actors.

“For me, the play is still timely and funny, but I wanted to push myself as a director to see if I can convey what I see in this 19th-century play to a 21st-century audience,” she said. “The struggles of overbearing parents and defiant young people; the absurd act of falling in love; the rivalries between dear friends – these are all universal situations, but because the play is also so much of its time period, I understand how anyone reading the play today can miss these timeless characters.”

For the actors, McMahon said the real challenge is the language.

“Oscar Wilde's language is so elevated that it is tricky to understand and memorize,” she said. “More than that, the actors have to make sense of the language for themselves so that the audience will understand what is really going on beneath the veneer of courtesy and civility. Unless the actors spend a good deal of time working on the subtext of the play, the audience will not see how funny and absurd these characters are.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.