by Jessa Cunningham, dramaturg
Saturday was the last show of Earnest, and it was sad to see such a fun show go. These past months that I have been working on the show, I have learned so much. Not only have I learned about myself, but I have learned about the world. The world that Wilde lived in, the world his characters lived in, and also the world we live in now.
It is always easy to watch a play and distance yourself from what is happening onstage from the real world. However, I find it more rewarding when I can apply it to the world around me. I found many instances of that with this play, and it made my work more interesting. I could have easily done the research on Victorian etiquette and thought of how silly these old English people were. But, instead I found connections between their culture back then to ours of today. Surprisingly, some things do not change, and if you’ve seen the show you can probably spot the similarities.
As I worked on Earnest, I realized that my work did not just involve historical research: it also included research about people and human interactions. As a dramaturg, there is nothing more interesting to me than learning about human interactions through the ages. How did the Victorian men treat the Victorian woman? Is there any similarity to how men treat women today? What were the relations like between the upper and lower class back then? How is that relationship in modern times? It is easy to draw up a curtain on the past and say, “Oh, we’d never do that now!” But where’s the interest in that? I find theatre far more intriguing when it is something I can relate to.
These are some of the things I am thinking as I bring my work with this hilarious show to a close. It was a blast, and there never was a dull moment. I hope that when you saw the show you were able to see those moments and laugh– whether that be at the actors or at yourself for relating so much to what they were doing. Allow yourself the trivial moments that Lady Bracknell criticizes. Life is too boring when everything is serious!