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A NOTE FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR By Vincent M. Lancisi, Founding Artistic Director


elcome. The holidays are upon us, community to experience a human story away from and a trip to the theatre is the the mindless solitary confinement of our TV, computer, perfect occasion to add to your and phone screens. We are engaged by playwrights and holiday season. There’s nothing actors who hold the mirror up to nature and make us more social and rewarding than an evening out laugh, cry, and care about each other. Give yourself and with friends and going to see a play together. This your loved ones the gift of great theatre in your lives. is one reason I chose to schedule The Importance You’re here—but are your friends? Family? Co-workers? of Being Earnest at this time of year. When better Treat them to the wonderful, life affirming theatre at to come out and have some sheer fun and enjoy Everyman. Stop by the box office after the show to learn one of the wittiest, funniest, more. most colorful plays written While making your gift-giving list this “GIVE YOURSELF AND in the English language? I’m not sure there is a finer, YOUR LOVED ONES THE year, please consider contributing to Everyman Theatre in honor of a loved more perfectly constructed GIFT OF GREAT THEATRE one. Our commitment to low ticket comedy out there. IN YOUR LIVES.” prices makes it a challenge to fund Everybody has an Aunt Augusta the high quality performances we’re in their lives, or an Algernon committed to producing at Everyman. or Jack who is impossible to please when it comes to If you make a new or increased gift before the end of the the holidays and gift giving (there are only so many year, it will be matched by a passionate and generous monogrammed cigarette cases one can give, after Everyman supporter. Your contribution will benefit all all!) Have you tried the present of live theatre? Gifting who come to see shows at Everyman. Let’s ring in the the opportunity to get out of the house to see a holiday season together by sharing the gift of great performance that is alive, heartfelt, and compelling is a theatre. It’ll enrich our lives and put smiles on our faces. wonderful present for anyone. Going to the theatre is one of the few activities that gets us up off the sofa and allows us to come together in our

Thank you for coming, & happy holidays!


Vincent M. Lancisi, Founding Artistic Director presents


Algernon Moncriefe...........................................................................................................DANNY GAVIGAN* John Worthing, J.P................................................................................................................ JAYSEN WRIGHT* Lane/Merriman.........................................................................................................................CARL SCHURR* Lady Bracknell................................................................................................. BRUCE RANDOLPH NELSON* Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax.........................................................................................................KATIE KLEIGER* Miss Prism............................................................................................................................. HELEN HEDMAN* Cecily Cardew.................................................................................................................. PAIGE HERNANDEZ* Rev. Canon Chausable, D.D.............................................................................................................WIL LOVE* Set Design

DANIEL ETTINGER Sound Design and Original Music Composition



Lighting Design




Costume Design



Fight Choreography


Props Master



Stage Manager


Setting: London, 1895

This production will be performed in three acts with two intermissions.



PLEASE TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES. NO TEXTING. NO EATING IN THE THEATRE. The videotaping or making of electronic or other audio and/or visual recordings of this production or distributing recordings on any medium, including the internet, is strictly prohibited, a violation of the author’s rights and actionable under United States copyright law. *Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST PLAY GUIDE | 1

Oscar Wilde photos: CMG Worldwide.



scar Wilde’s rich and dramatic portrayals of the human condition came during the height of the prosperity that swept through London in the Victorian Era of the late 19th century. At a time when all citizens of Britain were finally able to embrace literature the wealthy and educated could only once afford, Wilde wrote many short stories, plays, and poems that continue to inspire millions around the world. Oscar Wilde was the son of William Wilde, a celebrated physician who opened St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital entirely of his own expense, and Jane Francesa Elgee, poet and gifted linguist. Born in Dublin, Ireland as the middle child, Oscar was flanked by WIlliam Charles Kingsbury and younger sister, Emily Francesca, each two years apart. Profoundly affected by his sister’s death of a fever at just ten years of age, he maintained a lock of her hair in an envelope always.

A bright and hardworking student, Oscar attend the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen, and was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. He earned the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. Upon graduation in 1874, he won the college’s Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. Two years after, Oscar’s father died leaving the family in financial instability. Oscar continued to do well at Oxford, while his brother supported the family. In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry. During this period, he traveled across the United States and delivered a series of lectures on aesthetics. Between lectures, he met with Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Walt Whitman. EVERYMAN THEATRE | 2

A quote machine, Wilde is described as one of the first “pop” celebrities, uniquely aware of the media and the power of language. He even hired a photographer to do a photoshoot capturing his likeness, a rarity for the time.

On May 29, 1884, Oscar married Constance Lloyd. Constance was four years younger than Oscar and the daughter of a prominent barrister. She was well-read, spoke several European languages, and had an outspoken, independent mind. Oscar and Constance had two sons in quick succession, Cyril in 1885 and Vyvyan in 1886. With a family to support, Oscar accepted a job revitalizing the Woman’s World magazine, where he worked from 18871889. The next six years were the most creative period of his life. He published two collections of children’s stories, “The Happy Prince and Other Tales” (1888), and “The House of Pomegranates” (1892). His first and only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” was published in an American magazine in 1890 to a storm of critical protest. Its implied homoerotic theme was considered very immoral by the Victorians and


played a considerable part in his later legal trials. Oscar’s first play, “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” opened in February 1892. Its financial and critical success prompted him to continue to write for the theater. His subsequent plays included “A Woman of No Importance” (1893), “An Ideal Husband” (1895), and “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1895). These plays were all highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright.

SETTING This story takes place in three acts, beginning in Algernon Moncrieff’s morning-room in London. The second and third acts occur in the garden outside and in the drawing room of Jack Worthing’s country home. This production is set in the early 1900’s, the end of the Victorian Era and the beginning of the Edwardian era.

In the summer of 1891, Oscar met Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. Bosie was well acquainted with Oscar’s novel, “Dorian Gray,” and was an undergraduate at Oxford. They soon became lovers and were inseparable until Wilde’s arrest four years later. In April 1895, Oscar sued Bosie’s father for libel as the Marquis had accused him of homosexuality. Oscar withdrew his case but was himself arrested and convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labor. Constance took the children to Switzerland and reverted to an old family name, Holland.

CONFLICT Two gentlemen in London, John and Algernon, each live a double-life, creating elaborate deceptions to find balance. When Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen, and John Worthington’s ward, Cecily, both fall for a man named Ernest of whom Lady Bracknell disapproves, comedy is had. How will they sort this out? It’s a madcap masterpiece about marriage, morality, and mistaken identity.

Upon his release, Oscar wrote “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a response to the agony he experienced in prison. It was published shortly before Constance’s death in 1898. Oscar spent the last three years of his life wandering Europe, staying with friends and living in cheap hotels. When a recurrent ear infection became serious several years later, meningitis set in, and Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “True friends stab you in the front.”

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell the truth.”

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“I have the simplest of tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

“I am not young enough to know everything.”

“I can never travel without my diary, one should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”


CHARACTERS ACT 1 ALGERNON MONCRIEFF A charming, imaginative, if a bit cynical, bachelor in his late twenties. Cousin to Gwendolen, friend of Jack who he knows as Earnest, and escapist to the country whenever possible. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________ LANE Algernon’s manservant. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________

JOHN “JACK” WORTHING, J.P. A kind, responsible bachelor in his late twenties serving as a justice of the peace. Orphaned at birth and adopted, he is Cecily’s primary guardian, friend of Algernon, and in love with Gwendolen. He has a mysterious past and makes trips to the city under the name of Earnest.


ACT 2 MISS PRISM The Governess to Cecily vacillating between softness and harshness. She holds flirtatious feelings toward Dr. Chasubale. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________ MERRIMAN Butler in John Worthing’s Country Manor house. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________

Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________ LADY BRACKNELL The wealthy, elite mother of Gwendolyn, Aunt to Algernon, having a lofty checklist for any potential suitors. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________ HON. GWENDOLEN FAIRFAX The fashionable and sophisticated daughter of Lady Bracknell and cousin of Algernon. She is in love with John, whom she knows as Earnest, and in true fixation refuses to marry anyone but another name. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________


REV. CANON CHASUBLE, D.D. The rector on John Worthing’s country estate, available to christen Algernon and John into “Earnestdom”, if they so choose. Friendly and flirtatious with Miss Prism. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________ CECILY CARDEW Jack’s teenage ward, the granddaughter of the old gentlemen who found and adopted Jack when he was a baby. She has an active imagination fantasizing about Jack’s “brother,” her love interest, Earnest. Trait #1: _________________________________ Trait #2: _________________________________









Based on the costume rendering, what do you learn about each character? Name two traits associated with this person (under their character description), based purely on their exterior.


Gwendolen is Jack’s ______________________________________________________

Who is connected to whom in the end and in what way?

Jack is Algernon’s ________________________________________________________ Lady Bracknell is Jack’s ___________________________________________________ (answers on page 22)


Costume design drawings by David Burdick.


TIMELINE Important plays that explore sexual identity.


Written by the German dramatist Frank Wedekind between Autumn 1890 and Spring 1891. It was first performed in 1906 at the Deutsches Theatre in Berlin, Germany. The play carries the sub-title A Children’s Tragedy, and it criticizes the sexual oppression in 19th century Germany and the erotic fantasies it created. The play was often banned or censored for its controversial subject. It was adapted into a German silent drama film in 1929, a musical in 2006, and for television in 2008.



Written by American playwright Mart Crowley and premiered Off-Broadway in 1968. It was revived on Broadway for its 50th anniversary in 2018. The play revolves around a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party in New York City. It portrays gay life unapologetically and without judgement which sparked revolution on stage in a world not yet willing to fully accept the controversial subject.




Written by English playwrights Leslie and Sewell Stokes in 1936. It is based on the life of the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde containing much of Wilde’s actual writings, success, trial, and two years imprisonment for being homosexual.



Written by American dramatist and screenwriter Martin Sherman and premiered in 1979 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. “Bent” was a slang used in some European countries to refer to homosexuals. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany and takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives (A purge of executions ordered by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany).



A rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by American composer and playwright Jonathan Larson. It premiered in 1996 in New York. The musical is based loosely on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, and tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.


“Temperamental” was code for homosexual in the early 1950s, part of a created language of secret words that gay men used to communicate. The Temperamentals tells the story of two men—the communist Harry Hay and the Viennese refugee and designer Rudi Gernreich—as they fall in love while building the first gay rights organization in the preStonewall United States.

1991 1996 1997




Written by American playwright Tony Kushner and premiered in 1991 at the Eureka Theatre Company in San Francisco, California. It is a complex, metamorphical, and symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in America in the 1980s. Certain major characters are supernatural beings (angels) and or deceased persons (ghosts). The play won numerous awards including Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony award for Best play.

Written by Venezuelan playwright Moisés Kaufman in 1997. It deals with Oscar Wilde’s three trials on the matter of his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas and others, which led to charges of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons.” The play uses real quotes and transcripts of the three trials.


Image courtesy of



he gender history of 19th-century Britain can be read in two ways: as an overarching patriarchal model which reserved power and privilege for men; or as a process of determined but gradual female challenges to their exclusion. But actual changes in gender dispositions during the queen’s long reign should not be over-estimated. While the period witnessed a distinctive shift in ideas respecting gender relations at the level of social philosophy, away from a traditional idea of ‘natural’ male supremacy towards a ‘modern’ notion of gender equity, the process was vigorously contested and by no means achieved.

Important legal, educational, professional, and personal changes took place, but by 1901 full, unarguable gender equality remained almost as utopian as in 1800. If some notions of inequality were giving way to the idea that the sexes were ‘equal but different’, with some shared rights and responsibilities, law and custom still enforced female dependency. As women gained autonomy and opportunities, male power was inevitably curtailed; significantly, however, men did not lose the legal obligation to provide financially, nor their right to domestic services within the family. Moreover, the key symbol of democratic equality, the parliamentary franchise, was expressly and repeatedly withheld from women. A major change, towards the end of the century, lay in falling birth-rates and smaller families. Couples like Victoria and Albert, married in 1840, who had nine children in seventeen years, were from the 1870s steadily replaced, in nearly all sections of society, by those choosing to limit family size. Most developments in public sanitation and medical practice were gender-neutral in their theoretical bases and actual effects. Ideas relating to reproductive health were the EVERYMAN THEATRE | 8

obvious exception. In the early Victorian period, sexual codes were governed by religious and social moralism. In later years science began to challenge religion as the dominant epistemology, but in support of similar ideas. While the end of the era saw some demand for ‘free’ partnerships without the sanction of marriage, and an increase in same-sex relationships, both were generally deemed deviant. The mid-century was notable for its moral panic over prostitution, which developed—despite a ‘permissive’ interval in the 1860s—into demands for male continence outside marriage. At the end of the era, a socially shocking topic was that of the virginal bride (and her innocent offspring) infected with syphilis by a sexually experienced husband. Bringing together political and personal demands for equality, the slogan ‘Votes for Women, Chastity for Men’ was coined.

Gender and Power ‘The Queen is most anxious to enlist every one who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of “Woman’s Rights”, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety... It is a subject which makes the Queen so furious that she cannot contain herself. God created men and women different—then let them remain each in their own position.’ (Queen Victoria, letter 29 May 1870) In terms of gender ideology, the accession of Victoria was something of a paradox. Traditionally, women were defined physically and intellectually as the ‘weaker’ sex, in all ways subordinate to male authority. In private life women were subject to fathers, husbands, brothers even adult sons. Publicly, men dominated all decision-making in political, legal and economic affairs. But as monarch, Victoria—who in 1837 was only 18 years old­—was socially and symbolically superior

to every other citizen in Britain, all men being constitutionally considered her subjects. Early Victorian gender prescriptions featured men as industrious breadwinners and women as their loyal helpmeets. Reinforced by social philosophers like Auguste Comte, Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert Spencer, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and John Ruskin, this developed into a mid-century doctrine of ‘separate spheres’, whereby men were figured as competitors in the amoral, economic realm while women were positioned as either decorative trophies or spiritual guardians of men’s immortal souls. From the 1860s, to this social construct the Darwinian theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ added a pseudo-scientific dimension which placed men higher on the evolutionary ladder. ‘The man’s power is active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, the creator, the discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for speculation, and invention; his energy for adventure, for war, and for conquest... But the woman’s power is for rule, not for battle­—and her intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision... She must be enduringly, incorruptibly good; instinctively, infallibly wise—wise, not for selfdevelopment, but for self-renunciation: wise, not that she may set herself above her husband, but that she many never fail from his side.’ (John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, 1865, part II) From infancy onwards, gender inequity permeated all aspects of British life. ‘Think what it is to be a boy, to grow up to manhood in the belief that without any merit or exertion of his own... by the mere fact of being born a male he is by right the superior of all and every one of an entire half of the human race,’ wrote John Stuart Mill in his 1867 polemic against ‘The Subjection of Women’, continuing:

WOULD YOU PASS THE BRACKNELL CHECKLIST FOR COURTSHIP? Lady Bracknell would like to check each of these boxes for Gwendolen in order to secure the best candidate as husband.

Smoke Late Twenties Ignorant No formal modern education Prosperous investments Townhouse in the city, on the right side of town At least one living parent of good standing Politics that do not offend

formal learning at primary level was universal, with higher instruction available to the better-off. It is worth noting that girls were beginning to move on to university study by the 1860s. This was gradually provided, in segregated colleges at Cambridge and Oxford, somewhat more liberally at the Scottish universities and from 1878 at London University and elsewhere. Subjects studied acquired gender aspects, English literature and geography being for example regarded as appropriate for women, with Latin and geology for men. Overall, however, boys progressed to higher levels, producing an imbalance in qualifications that persisted until recently. One exceptional example was the classicist Jane Harrison (1850-1928), who trenchantly observed how scholarship was dominated by ‘that most dire and deadly of all tyrannies, an oligarchy of old men’. But it remained the case that the great Victorian adult education movement included predominantly male institutions such as the Mechanics’ Institutes and Working Men’s College. Later, however, the university extension movement also attracted many under-educated women.

“THE ACCESSION OF VICTORIA WAS SOMETHING OF A PARADOX. TRADITIONALLY, WOMEN WERE DEFINED PHYSICALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY AS THE ‘WEAKER’ SEX, IN ALL WAYS SUBORDINATE TO MALE AUTHORITY.” ‘How early the youth thinks himself superior to his mother, owing her forbearance perhaps but no real respect; and how sublime and sultan-like a sense of superiority he feels, above all, over the woman whom he honours by admitting her to a partnership of his life. Is it imagined that all this does not pervert the whole manner of existence of the man, both as an individual and as a social being?’ Whereas in 1800 the majority of Britons had a predominantly practical education, acquired at home and at work, by 1901

Throughout the Victorian period, employment patterns evolved in response to industrial and urban factors, but occupational structures remained gendered and indeed in some ways became more distinct. Thus, whereas in the THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST PLAY GUIDE | 9

1830s wives often assisted husbands in a small business or professional practice, by the 1890s work and home were commonly separated; exceptions included shopkeeping and upland farming. Nationally (which in this period included the whole of Ireland as well as Scotland, England and Wales), male employment shifted from agriculture to heavy industry, manufacturing, and transport, with an accompanying increase in clerical and professional occupations. Men also left domestic service, which remained the largest category of female employment throughout the period (employing 10 percent of the female population in 1851, for example, and over 11 percent in 1891). Women also worked in textile mills, potteries, agriculture, and garmentmaking, as well as in seasonal or unrecorded employment, especially laundering.

212 female physicians, 140 dentists, 6 architects, and 3 vets. Over a quarter of professional painters (total 14,000) and over a half of musicians (total 43,230) and actors (12,500) were female.

In the aristocracy, neither men nor women normally worked for wages. But men managed their estates and took part in government, while ‘society women’ supported these activities through household management and political entertaining. At the top of the tree, so to speak, lords and ladies attended court for a variety of official functions. However, the majority of upper- and middleclass women never worked outside the home. Nevertheless, although leisure time undoubtedly increased for many, the notion of idle, unoccupied Victorian ladies is something of Compared to the 20th a myth. Women ran century, there was indeed the house, undertaking some contraction in the domestic work and work open to women, child care themselves, as protective legislation as well as supervising barred their employment the servants employed underground or to cook, clean, carry overnight. In the coal, and run errands. Lancashire coalfields, the Moreover, almost ‘pit-brow lasses’ struggled from time immemorial, to retain their jobs. with a ‘work-basket’ Generally, male workers to denote her tasks, strove to secure wages each girl and woman that enabled wives to was a needleworker, be full-time mothers— responsible for making an aspiration in tune and mending clothes with bourgeois notions and household linen. of orderly domestic One major change in Francis Xavier Winterhalter, 'The Royal Family', after 1846. Museum no. E.3081bliss. The organised the period was the 1990. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London labour movement invention in the 1850s was overwhelmingly of the domestic sewing male, with a few trade union activists such as bookbinder machine, which greatly assisted both private and commercial Emma Paterson (1848-86), leader of the Women’s Protection dressmaking. By 1900 ready-made garments were and Provident League, who in 1875 persuaded the Trades increasingly available in shops. Union Congress to accept female delegates and successfully Traditionally, too, women cared for the sick and elderly. In a campaigned for female factory inspectors. large Victorian household, at any time at least one member— It is calculated that while most men worked, only one-third child, great-aunt, or servant—might require nursing, often of all women were in employment at any time in the 19th for prolonged periods. ‘All women are likely, at some period century (as against two-thirds in 1978, for comparison.) of their lives, to be called on to perform the duties of a There were only men in the army and navy, in shipbuilding, sick-nurse, and should prepare themselves for the occasion construction, printing, railways—to list some major when they may be required,’ noted Mrs. Beeton. Professional occupations—and only male scientists, engineers, priests, City nurses might be hired, but in many homes ‘the ladies of the financiers, and Members of Parliament. family would oppose such an arrangement as a failure of duty on their part’. From the mid-century, educated women began to prise open certain professional and clerical occupations, partly in response to the powerful Victorian ‘gospel of work’ that castigated idleness, partly to provide for the perceived ‘surplus’ of single women, and partly for the sake of selffulfilment. As a result of these struggles, by 1901 here were EVERYMAN THEATRE | 10

Image courtesy of Getty Images


Elizabeth Weingarten / New America, Time Magazine


hat determines your destiny? That’s a big question with what should be a complicated answer. But for many, the answer can be reduced to one word: anatomy. Freud’s assertion in 1924 that biology is the key determinant of gender identity, for instance, was for years a hegemonic idea in both law and culture.

Ever since Freud made this notion famous, critics have been objecting to body parts as central predictors of one’s professional and personal path. Many now believe that identity isn’t solely the domain of nature or nurture, but some combination of the two. Still, Freud’s theory isn’t yet dead; enduring gender norms show us that the bodies we’re born into still govern lives of women and men around the world. But according to some recent research, its influence may be fading. In one new study, a majority of millennials surveyed argued that gender shouldn’t define us the way it has historically, and individuals shouldn’t feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles or behaviors. Enforcing norms can even have health risks, according to another study. Some women’s colleges are now reportedly rethinking their admissions policies to account for gender non-conforming students. And even President Obama is getting in on the norm-questioning trend: While sorting holiday gifts for kids at a Toys for Tots in December, the president decided to place

sporting equipment in the box for girls. “I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” he said in a viral video. But will continuing to challenge gender norms and document their harmful impacts lead to their extinction? To answer that question, we need to first consider another: What’s so bad about traditional gender norms and the way we currently categorize men and women? For one thing, the way we categorize gender is far too facile, explained Alice Dreger, a leading historian of science and medicine, in a 2010 TED Talk. “We now know that sex is complicated enough that we have to admit nature doesn’t draw the line for us between male and female… we actually draw that line on nature,” she told the audience. “What we have is a sort of situation where the farther our science goes, the more we have to admit to ourselves that these categories that we thought of as stable anatomical categories that mapped very simply to stable identity categories are a lot more fuzzy than we thought.” Fuzzy—and maybe not entirely real in the first place. “If there’s a leading edge that is the future of gender, it’s going to be one that understands that gender is relative to context,” said author and gender theorist Kate Bornstein at a recent New America event, noting that geography, religion, and family attitudes are all contextual factors that can alter one’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST PLAY GUIDE | 11

perception of gender as a determinant of identity. As long as we hold onto the notion that gender is a constant, “we’ll keep doing things to keep the lie in place,” she said. But the fact is that “it doesn’t stand on its own, and is always relative to something.” Bornstein argues that the trick to stripping these norms of their harmful power is to mock and expose them for both their flimsiness and stringency. Which is what photographer Sophia Wallace attempts with her work. Girls Will Be Bois, for example, is a documentary of

When asked whether the future of gender was evolution and extinction, Barker, Nyong’o, Wallace and Bornstein all said they hoped for extinction. But at the same time, each acknowledged how difficult that goal would be to achieve. Beyond the power dynamics, there’s a level of comfort in wellworn identities. “It’s easy to sit in these old roles that we’ve watched and to feel a certain comfort in their stability in a world that feels kind of hard to understand,” Barker said. But change is not impossible. Barker advises demonstrating how our traditional version of masculinity may not actually be worth the fight. “Men who have more rigid views of what it means to be men are more likely to suicidal thoughts, more likely to be depressed, less likely to report they’re happy with life overall, less likely to take care of their health, more likely to own guns, the list goes on,” he said. “There is something toxic about this version of masculinity out there.”

“CHANGE IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. BARKER ADVISES DEMONSTRATING HOW OUR TRADITIONAL VERSION OF MASCULINITY MAY NOT ACTUALLY BE WORTH THE FIGHT.” female masculinity, featuring women who have traditionally “un-feminine” occupations—bus driver, boxer, basketball player—and a sartorial masculinity (baggy pants, and barechested). In Modern Dandy, Wallace switches up the way women and men are directed to look at the camera (or not) in photographs—whether to appear submissive (traditionally feminine) or dominant (traditionally masculine). Cliteracy, Wallace’s most recent work, uses imagery of the clitoris and text about female sexuality to illuminate a paradox: we’re obsessed with sexualizing female bodies, and yet the world is “illiterate when it comes to female sexuality.”

Detoxing society requires ripping off a mask of sorts. “It’s about getting as many people as possible to have that Matrix moment, Barker said, when they realize, “wait—[masculinity] isn’t real. It’s all illusory, it’s all performance.

But it’s not as bad as it once was. Wallace thinks that photography is evolving—that some genderfocused imagery is less tinged with ignorance today. “There’s so much that I’ve seen that has been hopeful,” she said. “There are actually images of female masculinity, trans-men and trans-women now that didn’t exist when I was in my teens and early 20s. In other ways we have so far to go.” Part of the struggle of relinquishing gender norms comes from an uncomfortable truth. “Men have everything to gain when we overthrow patriarchy… but they also have something to lose from giving up their traditional masculinity,” said Tavia Nyong’o, an associate professor of performance studies at NYU, emphasizing that male rights vary widely across race and class divisions and that white men have even more to lose than men of color. What do they lose, exactly? Privileges (the ability to open carry a gun and not be worried that they’ll be shot by the police, Nyong’o argued). Control— over political, economic and cultural domains. Access—to networks, jobs and economic opportunities. Put simply, they lose power. “You walk out the door in the morning with a penis and your income is 20 percent higher on average for nothing that you did,” said Gary Barker, the international director of Promundo, an organization that engages men and boys around the world on issues of gender equality. EVERYMAN THEATRE | 12

The modern woman. Image:

Comprehension Question

Compare and contrast gender roles in the Victorian period to today. How are they evolving?

Reflection Question

Where do we see “traditional” gender roles onstage in this story and how are these behaviors handled?

JULY 6, 2011 | By

Farhan Nuruzzaman


hemes of marriage, sexuality, and class relations figure prominently in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and still resonate with us today, said Cornell English professor Ellis Hanson, speaking at the 92nd Street Y in New York City June 29, 2011.

“This play is incredibly funny, but you have to be laughing really hard not to notice that it’s also drop-dead cynical about things that are very important to us,” said Hanson, noting how Wilde used satire to criticize elements of Victorian society. “I think it’s cynical and offensive in a good way; it doesn’t resolve our problems for us, but it gives us a particular kind of view of how we use language to negotiate political and social problems as well as problems of identity to our advantage.”

in the play, believes that one should marry for money and fall in love for a particular kind of lifestyle. Hanson related how disturbing some of his students at Cornell found this idea, who believed that people should marry for love only. Logically, Hanson said, if one marries for love, then it follows that one should also divorce for love as well. “In fact, I think most of us marry for more than love, and we stay in marriage for something more than love,” said Hanson. The play, Hanson said, “invites us to think about what exactly we think a marriage is, and why we all want it and yet why we all find it a form of torture at the same time. Could marriages be between people of the same sex, could you marry two or three people, could you marry members of your family, could you marry your mom?” asked Hanson. “What do we think marriage is, and why are we putting these constrictions on other people?”


Hanson explored Wilde’s ample use of double entendre and its relationship to Wilde’s double life (a respectable, married man who, on the side, was having sex with boys). “For instance, Ernest is a person’s name, as well as a character trait that means moral seriousness. It also refers to Oscar Wilde’s own double life in the sense that we can say someone is earnest, meaning morally serious, and we can also say that someone is in earnest, which means that person really means what he says,” said Hanson. “But if you say that man is in Ernest, then you naturally say Ernest who, and you start to understand the homosexual double entendre that Wilde was getting at.” Hanson also noted how marriage is mocked throughout the play. For instance, Lady Bracknell, one of the main characters

Hanson described how the play is also a satire on the decay of lying. According to Hanson, lying makes a great deal of sense in this play, where reality follows from language instead of language following from reality. “Most of what we call social life is an ability to navigate certain hypocrisies and lies, and the people who are best at it are the ones who win in the end,” said Hanson.

“Since we have to make up things to tell one another, and since we live social lives that are pure theater, and we perform for each other all the time, it seems that people who have the most art are the people who are going to have the best lives,” said Hanson. “And so we should have more faith in lying.”


Image courtesy of


SEPTEMBER 2, 2016 | By

Emily Gosling


s a new exhibition at Reading Prison sees the likes of Patti Smith read from his seminal work De Profundis, we consider the groundbreaking impact of Wilde’s unjust persecution.

A few months after the debut performance of his masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest—Wilde was sent to prison convicted of “gross indecency.” Wilde had tried to sue Sir John Sholto Douglas, father of his lover, Alfred Lord Douglas (or Bosie), for libel after a series of homophobic insults, culminating in a note left at Wilde’s club, the Albemarle, reading “For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite [sic].” The tables soon turned on Wilde, and evidence was brought forth of his “gross indecency”—or homosexuality—something the writer had at turns been trying to hide, for obvious societal and legal reasons, and also attempting to garner more public acceptance and respect for. The court transcriptions are a testament to Wilde’s courage and unfailing, unflappable wit. In the reading of letters between Wilde and Bosie, it was in the courtroom that the chilling and resonant euphemism for homosexuality, the “love that dare not speak its name,” was coined. When questioned about its meaning, Wilde said: “It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art… It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection… The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.” Wilde’s steadfast belief in his own sexuality, and his subsequent martyrdom for it, have made his writings all the more vital for the homosexual community after him. Homosexuality was not EVERYMAN THEATRE | 14

made legal in the UK until 1967, and voices like Wilde’s provide both comfort and hope in the face of injustice, ignorance and hatred. “To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul,” Wilde wrote in his powerful unsent letter De Profundis, created in prison and part love letter, part treatise on spirituality, the self and religion. Michael Morris, co-founder, of Artangel, the arts group that re-opened the Goal jail in 2013 as a gallery showcasing art in cells with Wilde’s De Profundis read daily by important British figures. He reflects on Wilde:

On why people still love Oscar Wilde… “It’s about his work and about his life, which are inextricably linked. His plays have always been popular and I think people identify with him for living a flamboyant life in Victorian times. He feels very modern; his aphorisms and epigrams feel like they could have been written yesterday. The form and content in Wilde’s work are conjoined, it’s very contemporary humour and use of irony, and he as a contempt sensibility. He feels close to us in terms of era, but it’s 116 years since he died. It doesn’t feel like that in his work or when you read about him, and that’s no more true than in De Profundis. It’s a kind of soul-searching and it wouldn’t have happened had he not been in prison under the separate system, so his prison sentence changed the tone of his writing.”

Image courtesy of Wikicommons






A. Wilde and Douglas by Gillman & Co, gelatin silver print, May 1893© National Portrait Gallery, London. B. The Ballad of Reading Goal Manuscript© The British Library Board, Add. 81634, f.11. C. Oscar and Bosie British Library Archive, Oscar Wilde Collection Items © The British Library Board, Add. 81783A, f.19.. D. Convicts exercising in Pentonville Prison, English School (19th Century)© Private Collection/ Bridgeman images.

On Wilde’s legacy for the gay community… “His fall from grace was so dramatic and so unprecedented, so that also plays a part in what we remember about him. He’s a martyr to the cause, but in De Profundis he doesn’t write about his sexuality openly – there were hints, but it was definitely euphemistic. He’s a gay icon, but he’s definitely not a gay rights campaigner, and it would be anachronistic to expect people to talk about their sexuality openly then. He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, but he never discussed his sexuality in print, and it could seem striking that he doesn’t in terms of our modern sensibility. There’s been a huge revolution in sexuality, and it’s only recently that it was made legal in this country – in some countries, it’s still illegal. We want people to be mindful of that oppression and persecution.”

intensiveness and obsessiveness is quite rambling because he was only allowed to write three pages at a time. That rawness and unfettered nature adds to its howl, its stream-ofconsciousness.”


On how the nature of suffering in De Profundis shapes our reading… “I don’t think you need to be gay to understand and appreciate and be amused by Wilde’s writing. It’s universal, it’s not partisan. There are many people, myself included, who are not gay, who are straight, who absolutely identity with what he went through. You don’t have to be gay to empathise. De Profundis’

On how the arts have shaped gay rights and culture…

“There are cultural outputs that contribute to social tolerance. Art now in this country is much more accepted; when Artangel began there was a kind of fear of visual culture, and I think that changed with the Tate Modern. It became something exciting, and wasn’t marginal anymore. Art’s themes and way of undressing issues all contributed to an atmosphere of tolerance. It’s extraordinary that in our lifetime, gay marriage is accepted: it’s happened very fast – the distance between homosexuality being illegal and gay marriage is only a few decades, and it shows how far we’ve come in our tolerance and empathy to all kinds of relationships. I think contemporary art has contributed to that, but so has journalism and campaigning. They formed a coalition to show that of course it should be accepted and celebrated.”


THE COMEDY OF MANNERS From Dr. Tracey Sanders, Drama Creative Arts Australian Studies


ut simply, the comedy of manners is a style of comedy that reflects the life, ideals and manners of upper class society in a way that is essentially true to its traditions and philosophy. The players must strive to maintain the mask of social artifice whilst revealing to the audience what lies behind such manners. In other words it is to make: The real artificial and the artificial real.

Comedy of Manners include the English shows, Keeping up Appearance, Steptoe and Son, Fawlty Towers (Sybil), Birds of a Feather (Dorian), Men Behaving Badly, Ab Fab. From the US notable shows include The Odd Couple and Frasier. Costume, Voice and Movement in Restoration Comedy. •

Dress was the contemporary dress of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries where every possible part of the body was adorned - large brimmed plumed hat, heavy periwig with curls tumbling over the forehead and down to the shoulders, a square cut coat and a waistcoat hanging to the knees, wide stiff cuffs and ruffles reaching to the knuckles and ribbons on every unmarked surface. (Crawford 1976)

Both sexes wore excessive make-up, false noses, beards, moustaches, powder, rouge, pencil, lipstick and beauty patches. Facial expression was avoided because it tended to crack the facial make-up. (Crawford)

The voice was brilliant and brittle, witty in language, often prose was used, and rapid repartee was the norm. Actors imitated the Parisian aristocratic style of address with its rich heritage from Moliere. (Crawford, p.230)

Tone was used to convey emotional quality to the audience and precise pronunciation was encouraged. Singing, dancing, posture, gesture and walking were all taught as special training schools in Britain.

Intricate vocal pauses and timing was developed and tempo of delivery was rapid.

As Restoration comedies were predominately presentational, movement was focused on entering and exiting through doors. Action took place mainly downstage on the apron of the stage.

Characterized by • A flamboyant display of witty, blunt sexual dialogue • Boudoir intrigues • Sensual innuendos • Rakish behaviour Conventions that governed Restoration/Comedy of Manners • Constancy in love (especially in marriage) was boring • Sex should be tempting • Love thrived on variety • Genuine sexual feelings had no place on stage • Characters clashed with each other in situations of conflicting love entanglements and intrigues • Country life was considered boring • Clergy and professional men were treated with indifference or condescension Other notable considerations •

Humour was in the satiric treatment of those who allowed themselves to be deceived or who attempted to deceive others

Laughter was directed against the fop, the pretender at wit, the old trying to be young or the old man with a beautiful and youthful wife

Prologues and Epilogues were important and plays would often begin or end with special pieces such as poetry, often delivered in a coarse, boisterous and hilarious fashion.

Highly graceful and elegant patterns of movement were encouraged and all actions should be precise and inventive.

In modern day sitcoms some excellent examples of The

Gesticulation was very important and an entire array



LEFT: Dorea Schmidt and Danny Gavigan in Everyman’s 2013 production of ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’.Photo by Stan Barouh. BOTTOM: Helen Hedman, Rosemary Knower, Paige Hernandez, and Bruce Nelson in Everyman’s 2006 production of ‘The School for Scandal’. Photo by Stan Barouh.

of facial grimacing, winking and smiling was developed. •

The fop (an effeminate male) was fashionable and also the butt of much of the sarcastic repartee in the plays. They minced, strutted and used copious flowing hand gestures and posing. Female actors flirted over and behind fans, halfmasks and handkerchiefs.

Bows and curtsies in the seventeenth century manner were used directed both at other actors and the audience. When one character passed another, they would often perform the en passant, a slight bow from the waist with one foot sweeping in an arc around the other foot without losing the pace of the walk.

Men always kissed a lady’s hand when leaving, held their hands away from their body to emphasise their lace cuffs, handkerchiefs and walking sticks and canes.

Woman balanced enormous and outlandish hats and carried a muff that was used not just for warming the hands but also to carry secret objects such as notes. They walked in a curved, graceful fashion and held their dresses slightly off the floor.

Characterization in Restoration Comedy •

One-dimensional often caricatured by their very name and were driven usually by a single emotional drive such as seduction, lust, greed.

Although the manners of the time were said to be realistically portrayed on stage, this is not the same meaning as realism on stage as we now know it. It was indeed, an exaggeration of common traits of the aristocracy.


he Importance of Being Earnest is an enlightening example of comedy of manners as it makes fun of the behavior of Victorian aristocracy which attaches great value to hypocrisy, frivolity, superficiality, artificiality, and money mindedness. The Victorian upper class society judged things by appearance and the present play makes us laugh at those values by turning them upside-down through a language which is satirical, funny and witty.

Different characters in the play embody those values and provide us insight into the upper-class society of the Victorian period. The play centers on the questions of identity, love, marriage, and money. Wilde’s basic purpose in writing the play was to expose and prove as a sham the norms and values of the Victorian aristocracy. That society stressed respectability, seriousness, and decency, but it was very different from what it appeared to be. What needed to qualify for marriage was wealth and good family background. Lady Bracknell rejected Jack as the candidate for Gwendolen, after she knew that he was a foundling. While asking him questions she gave last priority to his abilities and education and gave importance to family background. When she came to know that there is a handsome amount of money in Cecily’s account she is ready to get her married to Algernon. The two female characters Cecily and Gwendolen love their respective boys just for the beauty of their name ‘Earnest’. They find everything in the name and love for the name. The boys prefer the name Earnest but they lack seriousness. It is a satire on the society that gives priority to appearances and surfaces. It is hypocrisy of the concerned people. The dialogue used in the play is funny and witty. The clever exchange between the characters are beautiful on the surface and hollow inside. The artificiality and paradox embedded in the dialogue well matches the sham and hypocritical values and pretensions of the people targeted by satire. Thus, The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners as it uses light hearted language to evoke laughter at the false values of the Victorian upper society.



COSTUME DESIGNER Interview with Everyman Theatre Resident Costume Designer, David Burdick

Where are you from originally and when did you first develop an interest in theatre? I grew up in East Norriton, PA. My Junior High and High School had a very active theater programs that I became very involved with as an actor and also designing and painting scenery. When and why did you decide to pursue theatre professionally? How has your background shaped your career path? I went to college intending to pursue acting but quickly switched into technical theater. I originally thought I would become a scenic designer and was always interested in architecture, but I also really liked fashion and history and after spending a semester in the costume shop at University of North Carolina School for the Arts, that’s where I landed. It brought all of my interests together and I’ve been very lucky to have been able to have a career doing what I love. Define the Costume Designer’s responsibilities or the scope of their work in relation to bringing a story to life onstage. My job as a Costume Designer is to work with the Director and actors to support and realize their vision of each character. I’m responsible for researching, drawing sketches and choosing fabrics for costumes that are being made and shopping in the case of a contemporary play. I work closely with the artisans who are building the clothes to develop style lines, proportion and fit. The time spent in the fitting room with the artisans and actors is the most important part of the process and discovery. The biggest compliment I can receive is when I hear an actor say “now I know who my character is!” when we are working EVERYMAN THEATRE | 18

together in a fitting. I also work in collaboration with the other designers--scenic, lighting and sound, to develop the total look and feel of the show. Having worked on two other productions of The Importance of Earnest before, what is new and fresh about the director’s concept? How did it ultimately inspire you? This is my first time designing The Importance of Being Earnest. Joseph’s concept for this production is very exciting. He wanted a fresh, sexy take on this play and taking inspiration from Pop Art and Roy Lichtenstein in particular, influenced the color and fabrics I chose. The color is vibrant and I was inspired to use a few polka dots... When you come to a story for the first time, walk us through your thought process from first read to final rendering? When I first read a play it’s really just for enjoyment and to see what kind of emotion it brings. My next step is research, which I love. I research the history and politics of the time as well as specifics about fashion and culture. I also look at other artists that were working at the same time and often find inspiration from their use of color or stylistically. I then go back to the play and see how the images I’ve gathered relate to the play and specific characters. Then some more research and finally a sketch. Everyman Theatre has a new partnership with Baltimore Center Stage through the Costume Shop! Can you describe your roles at these two institutions and now how they are working together?





A. Costume sketch of Gwendolen with swatch by David Burdick for ‘Earnest’ B. Everyman Resident Company Member Beth Hylton in Everyman’s 2017-18 production of ‘The Revolutionists’. Photo by ClintonBPhotography. C. Girl with Hair Ribbon by Roy Lichtenstein, c.1965. Image: D. Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein. Image:

I’ve managed the Costume Shop at Baltimore Center Stage for many years and I’m the Resident Costume Designer for Everyman Theatre. After the recent renovation, Baltimore Center Stage has an amazing new Costume Shop. One of the challenges I faced in working with Everyman was that they didn’t have space for a shop or artisans on staff to build costumes at this point in their growth as an institution. Last season was a very ambitious one for Everyman with five of the six shows being period pieces and big costume shows so we brought the two theaters together to share their resources. It’s a great example of two arts institutions supporting each other. Which character are you most entranced by in this story and where is your biggest challenge? Gwendolen. It’s all about Gwendolen. I think the biggest challenge is blending the period silhouettes with more contemporary fabrics and colors. We want to pay tribute to this play as a classic Victorian comedy but also make connections with how it really relates to 21st century culture. How do you personally connect to The Importance of Being Earnest? My theatrical debut was playing the role of Jack when I was in 7th grade at Eisenhower Junior High School, so this play has a special place in my heart. I’ve always admired Oscar Wilde’s work and as a gay man have felt a special connection with him and the challenges he faced. I also love his witty use of language and the juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity of his characters.

What advice might you give someone interested in pursuing the profession of costume design as a career path? I think it’s very important to know and understand cut, construction and fabrics as well as design to be successful as a costume designer so finding a program that can offer a comprehensive rounded education is really helpful. It’s a lot more than being able to draw pictures. Know your history and always keep your eyes and mind open. Inspiration is always around you.

EXTENSION PROJECT Costume Designer: Decades versus Art Movement Having seen The Importance of Being Earnest, modernize this story even further. What happens if you set this play in a different decade? Create a design board complete with visual research and renderings to present to your classmates or “actors at the first read.” As this production is influenced by Roy Lichtenstein and the Pop art movement, select an artistic period to set this play during and repeat the same activity, but for a different character.




uch derision was directed toward aesthetes in the late 19th century, who, led by Oscar Wilde, declared their devotion to beauty in all its forms. That moment in the history of men and their fashions is remembered today because of the fate of Wilde, imprisoned for what was then the crime of “gross indecency.” But this was not the first sensational trial of a high-profile homosexual. That had happened long before, such as in the notorious “macaroni” case of 1772.


Anabaptist: A Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation of Martin Luther and the Catholic Church. It is generally seen as an offshoot of Protestantism, although this view has been challenged by some within the movement. Apoplexy: Unconsciousness or incapacity resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke. Betoken: Verb meaning to be a sign of, or to indicate. Conduce: To help bring about. Canonical: Honoring the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, which is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church. These guidelines are intended to regulate the Church’s external organization and government, and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church. Chafe: To irritate or damage something (often a part of the body) by rubbing against it; can also mean a state of annoyance. The Club: An exclusive men’s group to which Algernon and Jack belong, which gathers in a private location to fraternize. Often, those who frequented these clubs were unattached/unmarried. Christening: To dedicate someone or something ceremoniously. Also used to describe the symbolic formal admission of someone (most often babies) into a Christian Church. Credulity: A tendency to be too ready to believe that something is real or true. EVERYMAN THEATRE | 20

The scandal of Captain Jones

Captain Jones was “too much engaged in every scene of idle Dissipation and wanton Extravagance”. He was referred to as this “MILITARY MACCARONI [original emphasis]”. And, the writer concluded, “therefore, ye Beaux, ye sweet-scented, simpering He-She things, deign to learn wisdom from the death of a Brother”. Jones was granted a royal pardon on the condition that he left the country. Members of the public seethed with indignation at the thought of an establishment cover-up and a variety of men fled to the Continent. The macaronis have, however, been remembered for their style rather than for imputed sexual notoriety. We remember the uncouth revolutionary soldier who was originally mocked by the British as a “Yankee Doodle” for having “Stuck a feather in his cap / And called it macaroni”. But we’ve forgotten how queerly peculiar such an act may have seemed in the wake of a trial that bears comparison with those endured by Wilde a century later. That Americans could appropriate the song as a patriotic air implies a degree of innocence or, perhaps, of convenient forgetting.

Demonstrative: Showing feelings, especially of affection, openly. Effrontery: Lack of respect; rudeness. Egeria: A woman mythically regarded to be the author of a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (the area located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea; significant in Christianity and Judaism). Equanimity: Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations. Extravagance: A lack of restraint as it relates to spending money. Living luxuriously and without regard of managing resources. Also, excessive elaborateness of style, speech, or action. Expurgations: A form of censorship which involves removing (or purging) anything deemed noxious or offensive from an artistic work, or other type of writing or media. Festal: Of, like, or relating to a celebration or festival. Forte: Used to describe someone’s strength; something someone does very well. Glibly: Speaking or acting in a manner that is fluent and comprehensible, but insincere and shallow. Gorgon: A fierce, frightening, or repulsive woman. In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying creature who had snakes for hair and turned anyone who looked at her to stone. One popular example is Medusa. Green: Inexperienced; young or juvenile.

‘How d’ye like me’, Carington Bowles, London, 1772. Courtesy of


Reflection Question What language do you hear in The Importance of Being Earnest that may mean one thing, but actually represent something else? This is double entendre.

Horticultural: Relating to the art of gardening or cultivation of plants. Improbable: Unlikely to happen. Induce: To bring about. Also, to persuade someone to do something. Languidly: Moving in a way that is slow and relaxed, so as not to exert oneself. Also, to be weak or faint from illness or fatigue. Lax: Not significantly strict or severe; physically relaxed. Lorgnette: A pair of glasses or opera glasses held in front of a person’s eyes by a long handle at one side. Metaphysical: Abstract or philosophical. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the essence of a thing. It uses broad concepts to help define reality and our understanding of it. Misanthrope: A person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society. Morbid: Describing an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects, especially death and disease. Motive: The reason that someone does something, especially when of hidden or secretive nature; causing or being the reason of something. Perambulator: In British, refers to a baby carriage; also known as a pram.


leather and opening into two equal parts. Can also mean a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others, for example motel (from ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’) or brunch (from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’). Profligate: Recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources. Also, corrupt or depraved. Propounding: To offer an idea or point of view for consideration by others. Quixotic: Exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical; marked by rash lofty, romantic ideals. Ready Money: Money in the form of cash that is immediately available. Salver: A tray, typically made of silver and used in formal circumstances. Semi-recumbent: Partly reclining; half sitting up, half lying down. Smart: Commonly used to describe a person of high intelligence, this word can also mean clean, neat, and welldressed. Surmised: To draw a conclusion or suppose that something is true without having evidence to confirm it. Wagnerian: Stylistically or in content relating to Richard Wagner, who was a German artist best known for his musical composition and theatre direction.

Portmanteau: A large trunk or suitcase, typically made of stiff THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST PLAY GUIDE | 21


Use this space to jot down any thoughts that arise before, during, and/or after the performance. You can bring this with you to the theater and log your thoughts during intermission or on the bus after the show. Then, bring this to the Post-Show Workshop to share with a guest artist. I was surprised by/when…

The most memorable scene was when… because...

I was impacted most by the scene where...

I was confused by… or I wonder why...


Sources used to curate this Play Guide include...


1) Gwendolen is Jack’s... Cousin. 2) Jack is Algernon’s... Brother. 3) Lady Bracknell is Jack’s... Aunt.

THIS PLAY GUIDE CREATED BY Brianna McCoy, Director of Education & Community Engagement Brenna Horner, Lead Teaching Artist Karim Darwish, Education Apprentice Jonathan K. Waller, Director of Brand & Marketing EVERYMAN THEATRE | 22

EVERYMAN THEATRE IS LOCATED AT 315 W. Fayette St. Baltimore, MD 21201 Box Office 410.752.2208 Administration 443.615.7055 Email

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT If you have questions about the Play Guide, contact our Education Department at or 443.615.7055 x7142

THEATRE ETIQUETTE When you come and see a play, remember to...

Respectfully enjoy the show. While we encourage you to laugh when something is funny, gasp if something shocks you, and listen intently to the action occurring, please remember to be respectful of the performers and fellow audience members. Please turn off or silence all electronic devices before the performance begins. There is no texting or checking your cell phone during the show. The glow of a cell phone can and will be seen from stage. Photography inside the theatre is strictly prohibited. Food and drinks are not allowed in the theatre. Food and drinks should be consumed in the Everyman lobby before or after the show, or during intermission. Be Present. Talking, moving around, checking your phone, or engaging in other activities is distracting to everyone and greatly disrupts the performance’s energy. Stay Safe. Please remain seated and quiet during the performance. Should you need to leave for any reason, re-entrance to the theatre is at the discretion of the house manager. In case of an emergency, please follow the instructions shared by Everyman staff members. Continue the conversation. After your performance, find Everyman Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use #bmoreeveryman to tell us what you thought!

In this production, please be aware of... Strong Language and Racial Slurs Simulated Physical Violence Strong themes

CURRICULAR TIE-INS From the stage to the classroom...

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed). CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives. NATIONAL CORE ARTS STANDARDS Anchor Standard #6. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. Anchor Standard #7. Perceive and analyze artistic work. Anchor Standard #8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work. Anchor Standard #11. Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.


DESIGN YOUR COSTUME FOR A FAVORITE CHARACTER FROM THE PLAY Following David Burdick’s design process, it’s time to render! Select a character that inspires you. Determine the time period, weather, character traits, and economic background of this person. Sketch, draw, and add color to your idea for how this character dresses. Share your reactions to the performance using #bmoreeveryman.


Everyman Theatre "The Importance of Being Earnest" Play Guide  
Everyman Theatre "The Importance of Being Earnest" Play Guide