Sweet Briar Theatre to stage Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

The Importance of Being Earnest
Mary Grace Williams ’20 (Gwendolen Fairfax), left, and Zoe Steenwyk ’22 (Cecily Cardew). Photo by Kylene Hayslett

Sweet Briar Theatre’s spring production this year will be Oscar Wilde’s popular comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, through Saturday, March 23, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 24, in Murchison Lane Auditorium in the Babcock Fine Arts Center.

“The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People” was first performed in February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London. A satire on Victorian society, which valued being serious above all else, the play mocks traditions such as marriage and courtship, with characters who are constantly struggling to escape — or conform to — the confines of societal norms. In the center of the plot are two bachelors, John ‘Jack’ Worthing and Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their boring lives. They attempt to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only love men named Ernest. As one might expect, the bachelors soon become entangled in a twisted tale of deception and misadventure.

Sophomore Zoe Steenwyck, a musical theatre major from North Carolina, is playing the part of Cecily Cardew. “Cecily is all emotions, and she is fascinating to play as someone around her age who feels the same things, even if I don’t always express it,” Steenwyck said. “I love the witty banter and how women’s roles are reversed to show levels of power in this comedic Victorian play. The tea scene is definitely the most fun, and I can’t wait for everyone to see us battle through polite niceties.”

For Mary Grace Williams, who plays the part of Gwendolen Fairfax, it’s the proposal scene. “I like the humor and the satirizing of Victorian society,” says the theater major from Greenville, S.C. “Gwendolen is a woman who has very peculiar standards from which she never strays — especially when it comes to the name of Ernest.”

Other cast members include Macey Stearns ’20 (Merriman), Bryan Kopsitz (Algernon Moncrieff), William Judge Browning (John Worthing), Molly Harper ’13 (Lady Bracknell), Jordan Sack ’20 (Miss Prism), Mark Foreman (Rev. Canon Chasuble), Phoenix Brown ’20 (Lane) and Beth Kidd ’22 (Maid). Amelia Brooke Burnett ’20 is the stage manager; the play is directed by Professor of Theatre Arts Bill Kershner.

Tickets go on sale Monday, March 11, and are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for non-SBC students and free for Sweet Briar faculty, staff, students, alumnae and retired faculty and staff. Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 434-381-6120 or online at sbc.tix.com.

For more information, email Kershner at kershner@sbc.edu.