“The Importance of Being Earnest,” opening the SUNY Oswego theatre season from Oct. 18 to 22, shows that the complications of presenting and preserving a personal image are timeless.

The play is set in Victorian England in 1895 and was written by Oscar Wilde in the same year.

“Allowing the play to exist at the time it was written adds a lot of layers and dimension to the experience of attending the play,” said theatre faculty member Steven Mazzoccone, the director of the show.

Auditions for the production took place during the first week of classes.

“I was really happy with the turnout,” Mazzoccone said.

Running in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a comedic and family-friendly piece.

“[It’s] a really funny show,” said Ella Boedicker, who is the assistant director for the play and a SUNY Oswego student. “I catch myself chuckling during the read-throughs.”

The play focuses on Jack, who is pretending to be another person, Earnest. Jack uses Earnest “to go pursue the more fun things in life,” said Ian Katz, who plays the character. “It’s been pretty fun being able to play that contrast.”

Leading double lives

“I think we all feel the urge to sort of be what a society wants us to be, but there’s always discord between what that is and the image that’s sort of placed upon us,” Mazzoccone said. “The play sort of suggests that it’s an impossible task. Everyone leads a bit of a double life.”

Presenting a historical play adds challenges to the rehearsal and production processes as well. The costumes are all specially designed and tailored to the actors. Additional complications come for performers, as Victorian costumes can be quite heavy and restrictive. Actors wear special clothing in rehearsals while blocking – or planning the movement in the play – to get used to the costumes and create their characters.

“People in that time didn’t move unless they felt like they could add something to the moment by moving," Katz said of the actors of the era.

Actors also face a new challenge with having to learn dialect to keep the show accurate.

Mazzoccone said that quickly integrating these elements of role, dialect, costume pieces and props is “sort of what is expected of you on a professional scale,” so taking part in this production is a good experience for the actors as they look beyond SUNY Oswego.

The rehearsal process has moved quickly, with a short turnaround before the production opens.

“We blocked the entire show in three rehearsals,” Katz said. The three-and-a-half-hour rehearsals can be challenging but also “definitely rewarding,” Katz added. 

“[There will be] three different sets that will change between each act,” Mazzoccone said. The play is three acts, with 10-minute intermissions taking place between each. He described it as “a realistic setting [with a] pretty intricate and ornate set.”

“The Importance of Being Earnest” will have 7:30 p.m. curtains on Oct. 18, 19 and 20; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. showings on Saturday, Oct. 21; and a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee on Oct. 22. 

The production coincides with Family and Friends Weekend on campus, and Mazzoccone emphasized that the production is family-friendly.

“Bring anyone you want, because we will have the house!” Katz exclaimed.

Tickets are free for students, $10 for the general public, and available via tickets.oswego.edu or any campus box office. 

–- Written by Mackenzie Shields of the Class of 2024