Sydney Brummel—Copy Editor
Throughout this semester, Dordt University’s Theatre Arts Department has worked in a variety of ways. From researching and designing to constructing and rehearsing, its students, professors, and staff members have been preparing for the department’s upcoming show: The Importance of Being Earnest. The show, directed by Laurel Koerner, associate professor of directing and acting, is scheduled to perform from March 23-26.
Originally written by Oscar Wilde and first performed in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy set in Victorian England that tells an entertaining and hilarious story of a young man named Jack who goes by the name of Ernest. Along with his friend, Algernon, the two men go to ridiculous lengths to woo the women they love.
“It gets really complicated,” Koerner said.
When deciding which play to perform next, the director considered several different factors. Koerner said that working with a smaller cast allows the actors to dig into the content of the play to a much greater degree and focus on improving their skills as performers. Wilde’s play offered the perfect size to allow such growth to occur.
Moreover, despite the fact that the department had recently performed a comedy musical in the form of Peter and the Starcatcher earlier in the year, Koerner believed that choosing another comedy with The Importance of Being Earnest was appropriate and timely.
“I think with the stress of the last couple of years, we didn’t mind doing a comedy again,” Koerner said, “to offer some levity to the community in the midst of stressful times.”
This spring’s play will also launch the department’s Apprentice Program. The show’s Assistant Director, senior English major Hannah Vanderhooft, has been coordinating the new program.
“I’ve really loved being able to work closely with Laurel and the rest of the department,” Vanderhooft said. “I’ve learned a lot about theatre and the process of directing.”
In the Apprentice Program, understudy roles have been given to “apprentice” actors, who will give a separate, abridged performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. The performance will be open for the theatre company and any interested audience members.
“It’s just an opportunity for actors to get on stage and perform what they’ve been working on for the past couple of months,” Vanderhooft said.
One of the greatest challenges that all the actors have faced in bringing Wilde’s play to life is mastering the integral, comedic element of the play.
“This material is a good exercise in understanding long-form comedy,” Koerner said. “We’re more accustomed now to consuming comedy in 30-second increments, so to make an eight-minute scene funny, the whole way through, is a real challenge but so satisfying to work on.”
Full of laughs for both the characters and audience, the play has become very popular since its original performance. The Importance of Being Earnest has been revived on stage countless times and has even been adapted to film. Dordt’s own theatre arts department looks forward to performing their rendition in less than a month.
“It feels far away, but this time we have left will go really fast,” Koerner said.
The process of planning and designing this show began long before this semester, however. Auditions for The Importance of Being Earnest were held at the end of last semester so the cast could know their roles and begin preparing over winter break. Since they began rehearsals, the actors have met early deadlines, mastered challenging material, and made immense progress overall.
“It’s really hard to get this play just right, and it hast to be just right if it’s going to be as funny as it can be,” Koerner said. “And they’re doing really phenomenal work.”
Apart from skilled acting, the audience of the play can expect to carefully planned period costumes, hair, make-up, props, and a collection of immaculately designed sets for the play.
“All of the elements of the show—scenic design, lighting, sound—are coming together to make a great piece,” Vanderhooft said.
“It’s a lot of moving parts—a lot of personnel involved,” Koerner said. “We get to have students come from so many different corners of campus, come together bring their interests and talents to make this one big thing together. Theatre is really special that way.”
After returning for spring break, the Dordt community can look forward to a thoroughly designed and rehearsed comedy that has stood the test of time and will feature an impressive showcase of diverse talents.
“It’s going to be hilarious,” Koerner said. “Everyone should come.”