Marion Art Center prepares for ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

Mar 7, 2023

MARION — When rehearsals began for the Marion Art Center’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” actors didn’t focus on learning lines, instead they attended “British Bootcamp” to sharpen up their accent skills.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a satirical play by Irish writer Oscar Wilde, that pokes fun at Victorian-era high society, and the cast of 13 used accent work to help embody their roles.

“We did accent work for the first week, which was about three rehearsals,” said Steffon Gales, who plays Jack Worthing, a high-society Englishman who harbors a secret identity. “And then after that, we started learning our lines with accents.”

Director Kate Fishman, who has lived in England and abroad, led the “boot camp” with her actors.

According to Gales, who works as the associate director of college counseling at Tabor Academy, using an accent hasn’t hindered his acting ability.

“Although I'm using a different accent for my character, I still know how to develop and how to feel out my character,” said Gales. “I can still figure out who Jack is. Why is he going through this identity crisis? How does he reconcile it with his family and his friends? It's kind of an old hat with new tricks.”

But the play, which juggles mistaken identities, family ties and Victorian sensibilities, is more than just well-done accents. According to Fishman, it’s a satirical social critique that works in any time and any place.

“You can see that he's saying something about how silly we are as people,” she said. “What we think is important, isn't at all.”

Wilde is known for his novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” his plays and for his many famous sayings like “be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Throughout the runtime of the play, actors like Maura Van Voris, who plays love interest Gwendolen Fairfax, lean into some of Wilde’s more poignant social critiques with fourth-wall-breaking asides to the audience.

This season, said Fishman, each role in the play also has an understudy, someone who can play the part if the main actor cannot. This was done in an effort to mitigate the risk of a Covid-19 exposure canceling the show, and to give understudies their moment in the spotlight.

In addition to Gales and Van Vorris, the cast includes Tristan McCann (Algernon Moncrieff), Gary Sousa (Lady Bracknell), Allie Goodman (Cecily Cardew), Susan Reddick (Miss Prism), Jack Boesen (Dr. Chasuble) and Janne Hellgren (Lane/Merriman).

Understudies include Oliver Asker, (Jack Worthing), Gavin Bressler (Algernon Moncrieff), Suzie Kokkins (Lady Bracknell)Sorensen Young (Gwendolen Fairfax), Kiah Allaire (Cecily Cardew), Donn Tyler (Dr. Chasuble) and Cynthia Latham (Lane/Merriman).

Show dates are March 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 at the Marion Art Center, 80 Pleasant St.
in Marion. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Admission is
$20 for Marion Art Center members, $23 for nonmembers.