St. Thomas University students have been busy preparing for their next production by rehearsing comedic, witty dialogue. Theatre St. Thomas’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest opens in the Black Box Theatre on Jan. 30.
Third-year student Ben Smith will play lead character Jack Worthing. He’s been acting with TST since his first year at STU.
“I have never laughed so much working on a show,” he said.
“This show is always so well received by so many audiences regardless of age. It’s so much fun to work on.”
John Ball started co-directing the TST production of The Importance of Being Earnest after Christmas when director Ilkay Silk couldn’t continue solo directing due to surgery. Ball is the chair of the department of English at the University of New Brunswick and has taught The Importance of Being Earnest in some of his literature classes. Ball chose to assign the play for his class this year, knowing STU would put on a production of it in late January.
“I think it’s more rewarding for students to study a play if they have some way of seeing a production of it,” Ball said.
Mika Driedger plays Gwendolen Fairfax and said it’s her first time performing a play.
“It’s a whole learning experience for me,” Driedger said. “I had a handful of lines in two musicals in my first undergrad, but this is my first time in a play since I was knee-high.”
The play is a romantic comedy involving three couples. Smith and Driedger perform as lovers, Earnest and Gwendolen, but Smith’s character conceals the fact that his name isn’t actually Earnest – it’s Jack.
“My character is well – earnest,” Smith said.
The cast gets along well according to both Driedger and Smith.
“They’re all fantastic. I was really intimidated when we started because they were all so talented,” Driedger said.
The Importance of Being Earnest was written by Oscar Wilde in the late 19th century and was first performed in 1895. Ball said he’s seen the play five or six times.
“It kind of functions as a satire of upper-class behaviour at the time,” Ball said.
Smith has been acting for more than 10 years. He grew up performing in Theatre New Brunswick and acted throughout school, but he’s still learning how to overcome challenges. One he faces in The Importance of Being Earnest is getting used to performing “a show in the round” – having an audience on all four sides during the performance.
He also said he finds some difficulty in playing with the comedic writing style.
“The challenge is not to play the jokes because the writing speaks for itself, so playing it honest and genuine. What works one time might not work the next,” Smith said.
The Importance of Being Earnest opens at The Black Box Theatre on Jan. 30 and runs until Feb. 2. Regular admission is $10 and $5 for students.
Ball urges everyone to see the show for its timelessness, but also for the soul the TST actors put into it.
“They are all excellent performers, they really understand their characters,” Ball said.
“I think they’ll more than do it justice.”