Friday, February 6, 2009

The Impertinence of Blogging Earnest -- Introduction and explanation

For the next few weeks through the beginning of April, visitors to http://www.lafayettecivic.blogspot.com/ will have access to a director's thoughts as he prepares a production for Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. Once a week for the next several weeks, I will keep you informed as to how auditions, rehearsals, production meetings and other related elements are progressing for Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.

Why do this? First, new technology should be used in new ways whenever possible. Readers of this blog have received glimpses of productions during the rehearsal process -- profiles, bios, information about auditions and performances, etc. -- but there hasn't been an ongoing project to track a production from beginning to end for an audience. And there are not many resources to document the work done by the cast, the production team and the crew during the course of rehearsals. Blogging seemed to be a method to attempt to address these related topics.

Second, although I've thought of approaching Civic directors with a similar project for their own productions, it isn't fair to ask someone else to take on a task that I'm not prepared to do myself. I do not know whether reading the results on this blog will encourage other Civic directors to try the same, but I hope it will open up the possibility in their minds of blogging about their shows.

Third, the more people get to know about the practice of theatre -- the multiple decisions that have to be made that can lead a production down any number of paths, the successes, the failures, the second-guessing, the reverse-engineering, the high points and the low -- the more they'll understand the product. It may also enhance their enjoyment of the show, and perhaps demystify what theatre is and encourage them to become involved.

So once per week I'll be at my computer, typing my thoughts on the previous week's activity on The Importance of Being Earnest and the steps being taken to bring it to the stage at the historic Monon Depot Theatre. You'll still be reading posts to announce the cast list as well as an "In the Wings" series that highlights some of the actors and the set. And there will also be post for you to share your thoughts about the final production. But I hope these weekly posts will nicely supplement those snapshots and keep you entertained.

So ... here's the first post.

The first question a person may have for me is "Why direct The Importance of Being Earnest?" My first answer is that Oscar Wilde's script is brilliant in that it satirizes society with little bon mots. They're almost like cotton candy laced with arsenic: They're light, fun and easy to digest and forget, except that they've got a bit of a sting. Wilde takes on marriage, education, manners, snobbery, societal classes and more with a sharp observation hidden in a sweet phrase.

Additionally, the script is a farce -- the most incredibly unbelievable actions happen in succession, all because of a misunderstanding or a secret. There are buffoons aplenty, and more than a few characters get their comeuppance as their facades are shattered. In fact, every character has a facade -- they are two-faced to a fault (oh, that clever Wilde knew society's little hangups ... and he airs them out).

And on top of all that, the play is a romance. Characters are so in love that they'll go through a lot to ensure they can marry whom they want to marry at the end. Some scripts can barely pull off one style successfully. The Importance of Being Earnest pulls off three.

The second answer is that I love working with the young people who participate in Civic Youth Theatre. It isn't just a question of talent, but that they're willing to take on risks and go for the big prize. Not nearly enough credit is given to CYT Director Melanie R. Buchanan for encouraging seasons that include classic plays to stretch and challenge the abilities of these young people. And not nearly enough credit is given to the casts and crews who participate in shows that have challenging content, including Romeo and Juliet and The Giver.

And The Importance of Being Earnest is going to be a heck of a challenge -- the language simply must be memorized word for word otherwise the meaning is altered and the comedy dimished; the actors have to deliver the lines so they seem to come from them naturally, and these lines are not natural all, they are literary almost to the point of being philosphy rather than dramatic action; some characters are simply not very nice without a single explanation as to why and actors love the chance to explain why their characters are flawed -- they want sympathy, but this script doesn't allow those moments; finally, the audience's expectations are going to be high. When they learn that CYT is producing this show, three out of every four people I speak with have told me that this script is their favorite comedy of all time. The challenges are going to be immense, and I'm excited to work with these CYT folks to meet them and exceed expectations.

Steve Martin

1 comment:

jessica nadine said...

"Not nearly enough credit is given to CYT Director Melanie R. Buchanan..." This is so incredibly true! In general, Civic Youth Theatre has grown SO much in the past few years. CYT is a much-stronger family for all ages of children thanks to Melanie. Young children have opportunities to learn basic theatre with fun shows while teenagers can still be challenged.