Senior ANDY Editor
Andrea Pohlmann has a lot on her plate this term. This first-time director is in charge of two shows premiering in early 2012 – The Importance of Being Earnest and Into the Woods – two drastically different but equally fantastic plays that have her more excited than nervous about the responsibility of getting these productions on their feet.
The Importance of Being Earnest is the first play of the New Year in the world of McMaster theatre. Pohlmann is directing for the McMaster Thespian Company, a well-respected MSU club that is known for its revivals of classical Elizabethan and Victorian works. Now in its ninth season, McMaster Thespian Company’s decision to stage Oscar Wilde’s iconic work was something Pohlmann was very excited to hear about.
The Importance of Being Earnest follows Mr. John Worthing, a Victorian gentleman with a secret – he leads a double life under the alias of Ernest Worthing. Worthing’s dual identity gets complicated when his nosy best friend Algernon Moncrieff discovers his secret and tries to use it to his advantage to woo Worthing’s charming ward Cecily.
Meanwhile Worthing, desperately in love with aristocratic Gwendolen, must struggle to keep up with his double life in order to win the hand of the woman he loves. The ensuing chaos is a witty satire of repressed Victorian society and a hilarious romp through the eternal issues of male/female courtship. As Pohlmann says, “there are family issues and there are romantic issues, but it’s also just so funny.”
Pohlmann is mostly sticking to conventions with TIOBE, which aligns with her self-identified classicist style, but admits she is taking some directorial risks. Accents will be used, as well as some gags that are being kept hush-hush, but that Pohlmann promises will bring big laughs. The element of scandal in the play is also something she’s interested in emphasizing, starting with promotional posters that feature her cast in the nude. “Yes, we’ve seen The Importance of Being Earnest, but we haven’t seen The Importance of Being Earnest like this,” she explained.
While the actual production will see the actors fully clothed, this edgy marketing brings a modern twist to an old classic steeped in Victorian-era sexual tension and social scandal – themes Pohlmann points out to be incredibly timeless: “Everyone wants to watch people fall in love.”
In regards to casting, “I got really, really lucky,” Pohlmann enthused. Her production showcases known names in the McMaster theatre scene, including Sarah Granger, Grant Winestock, Harrison Cruikshank and featuring Jimmy Skembaris in traditional drag as Lady Bracknell. “I’ve been excited about interacting with the cast and helping them grow as actors as well as helping them grow as characters,” she said, “and now I’m most excited about watching it come to life.”
“[When you] come see the show what you’re going to see is as if I had taken my heart out of my chest and put it on stage and let it beat for you.” Passionate words from a passionate director.
The Importance of Being Earnest plays January 19th, 20th, 21st at the Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103, McMaster), and January 26th, 27th, 28th at the Baltimore House (43 King William St., Hamilton).