7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
Two young ladies claim undying love for a man named Ernest. Two men, neither of them named Ernest, are each in love with a young lady.
Will either man win his girl? Or will the couples have to remain passionately celibate?
"The Importance of Being Earnest" has delighted audiences since 1895, when it first appeared on the London stage. This comedy focuses on characters maintaining fictitious personas to escape burdensome social obligations.
The performance, beginning Friday evening at the Averitt Center for the Arts, is directed by Mical Whitaker and Melinda Roell. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is a play both directors have waited a long time to produce, and both are excited to see the audience's reaction.
"I first saw this production in while in college at Howard University," said Whitaker. "It's been a favorite of mine for a long time. I've reached a point in my life where I can direct shows on my ‘bucket list' and I'm enjoying that."
"Mr. Whitaker and I first started talking about co-directing ‘Earnest' three or four years ago," said Roell. "It's taken awhile of clearing our schedules so we both had time to devote to the production. I think it's been worth the wait. This is going to be an extraordinarily good production."
The team has been working on the production for nearly a year.
"Mical and I read and reread the show and talked a lot in advance about vision of the show -things like whether to set it in current time or original period, as well as where we wanted the location to be. We did lots of background work last fall even before auditions were set," said Roell. "I am thrilled to be learning so much from Mical. He's simply one of the most experienced theater people we have around and very generous with his time and knowledge - a great teacher."
The cast brings together both well-known actors and some new to the stage, or to Statesboro. For example, many will recognize Sarah Hancock as the director of Statesboro Youth Chorale and a vocal soloist, but "Earnest" is a straight play, not a musical.
"It's a brilliant, laugh-out-loud play," said Hancock, "and Lady Bracknell is a role I've always wanted to play."
She explained that preparing for a play is basically the same as preparing for an opera or a musical - the memorization is the same, although the movement in a play isn't dictated by the beat of the music.
JD Lane, the box office manager at the Averitt Center, is both excited and nervous about stepping away from his normal behind-the-scenes duties and onto the stage.
"I first read ‘Earnest' in an Intro to Theater class, taught by Mr. Whitaker," Lane explained. "So it was like coming full circle to audition and actually be cast in the production."
Faces fairly new to the Emma Kelly Theater stage include Abigal Eller, who plays Cecily; Drake Oglesby, portraying Algernon; and Brittani Howell, playing Gwendolen. Corliss Reese and Benji Lewis are the gentlemen servants, and Averitt STARS regulars Susan Jackson and John Gleissner round out the cast.
As will all productions, the cast members have become great friends over the past few months. All of the hard work has certainly paid off and the performance is highly anticipated by both the cast and crew alike.
"It's been a fun ride," says Lane. "I'm looking forward to opening night."
All performances are open to the public. Tickets for the show are $13 for adults and $10 for youth. To reserve your ticket, call the Averitt Center Box Office at (912) 212-2787 or purchase online at www.averittcenterforthearts.org. Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5:30 p.m.