Alex Chambers: Constellation Stage and Screen’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest opens this Thursday, October 13 at the newly renovated Waldron Arts Center. The production is ringing in a new era for the building, which Constellation leased from the city earlier this year. The play is also part of this year’s Themester at IU: Identity and Identification, even if the university’s theme isn’t specifically about exploring what it’s like when young men pretend their name is Ernest in order to woo beautiful and wealthy young women.
I am excited to talk with Constellation’s artistic director, Kate Galvin, who also directed this production, and Hannah Hakim, who plays Cecily. Welcome, Kate and Hannah.
Kate Galvin: Thank you so much.
Hannah Hakim: Thanks for having us.
Alex Chambers: So Oscar Wilde wrote that the play takes place in “The Present.” But considering it’s about upper class young people in love but also faking their identities, if it was our present it would involve dating apps and self-phones.
Kate Galvin: Yeah. [Laughter.] Our production is definitely set in his present, not our present.
Alex Chambers: So I’m curious if it feels present.
Kate Galvin: It does. You know, when we think of Earnest we think of this frothy, silly, farce, right? Of mistaken identity. But underneath that very silly surface there are opinions, I would say, that come through. Wilde’s commentary on marriage, on class, on religion even, that come through in very pointed ways throughout the script. And all of that felt really contemporary to me. You know, when I was doing season selection, I was looking at a lot of classic comedies to put into our season this year, and this piece, which was written in the early 1890s felt more contemporary to me than some of the plays that I read that were written in the 1950s. And also with the reopening of the Waldron we wanted to find something that was gonna feel glamorous and festive to celebrate the reopening of the building and our new season.
Hannah Hakim: And what better way to do that than with beautiful costumes and a beautiful set. This show is decked out in corsets, it’s decked out in colors. There’s hats, there’s wigs, there’s long glamorous gowns and plaid suits, and the set also matches the colors and the excitement of the costumes so well that I’m so excited to see this glamorous play being supported by such glamorous tech elements.
Kate Galvin: Yeah, we really tried to embrace the aesthetics of the Aesthetic Movement. Oscar Wilde was very involved with this movement in the 1800s that was really about art for art’s sake and celebrating beauty. And so that's what we wanted to do with our design concept both scenically and with the costumes and it's just going to be a feast for the senses.
Alex Chambers: And speaking of the design team and the creative team, do you want to say anything? You want to add anything else about that?
Kate Galvin: It's a great team. Kate Mott, our costume designer, has just moved mountains to come up with these outrageous costumes that everyone looks amazing in. And yeah, Aubrey Krueger is our prop master and she is tasked with making all of the cucumber sandwiches.
Hannah Hakim: There's a lot of eating in this play.
Alex Chambers: Very interesting. How's that been?
Hannah Hakim: Well, I'm a lady so I don't eat. But um, there will be full tea sets and a lot of food props that I think the actors that do eat are going to have a lot of fun with.
Kate Galvin: We keep joking about the the amount of carbs they’re taking in over the course of the run.
Hannah Hakim: Many muffins.
Kate Galvin: Many, many muffins and cucumber sandwiches.
Alex Chambers: Very exciting. So what is something that audiences won't want to miss?
Kate Galvin: I think this is a show that a lot of people think they know and they may have seen like a bad high school production of it or something like that. But when you set this piece on a talented cast like this, it just comes alive in a way that is really exciting. So even if you know it already, there's going to be delightful surprises that our company has found in the course of digging into this script.
Hannah Hakim: Whenever I told people I was in the show a lot of people were like, oh, that sounds familiar. But I think when you see this show you go in expecting just “oh you know 1800s English posh,” but then you realize how much the jokes land today because a lot of it's still rings true that I think the audience is just not going to want to miss this production.
Kate Galvin: Yeah, it's gonna be a fun night out
Alex Chambers: Kate Galvin. Hannah Hakeem. Thanks so much for taking the time to be here.
Hannah Hakim: Thanks for having us.
Kate Galvin: Thanks Alex.
Alex Chambers: I've been talking with Kate Galvin, artistic director of Constellation Stage and Screen, and director of their new production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, and Hannah Hakim, who's playing Cecily. The production runs October 13 through the 30th at the Waldron Art Center in Bloomington. For WFIU Arts, I’m Alex Chambers.