Theater students invite the audience on stage
The Wilsonville High School Theater Department is trying something a bit different for its next play. Instead of people packing into the auditorium, audience members will join the nine-person cast on stage for an intimate performance.
"You have to be a varsity performer to be able to stay in the world of the play when the real world is two feet away," said Director John Fitzgerald, adding that there will be seating on three sides of the stage for about 72 people. "You have to be completely immersed in the thing the entire time because everybody can see everything that you're doing."
On Feb. 22-24 and March 1-3, Wildcat drama students will perform "The Importance of Being Earnest" — a farce British comedy written by Oscar Wilde that pokes fun at the upper class of late Victorian London, where the females fantasize of the perfect man and the men lead double lives.
Sophomore Averyl Hartje, who will be playing Cecily Cardew — an energetic and spirited young lady — has never performed with the audience on stage before.
"It's been a little bit of a challenge to orient ourselves but I think it will turn out really cool," Hartje said.
Fitzgerald said they decided to invite the audience on stage mainly for logistical reasons because the school's smaller black box theater is also a classroom, and they didn't want to deal with transitioning the room between set and classroom everyday.
"One hundred people in a full house works better than 100 people in a third of a house. It's better for the audience; it's better for the people that are on stage," said Fitzgerald regarding the smaller cast. "I don't think there's ever a moment when all nine of them are on the stage at the same time. When we get up to six then it's a real challenge — who's being blocked in what direction? Often times it's like 2-4 (people) and it's the main romantic leads or whatever, so that's neat to be able to focus on them."
And Fitzgerald is thrilled to bring "The Importance of Being Earnest" to WHS — one of his favorite plays since he was 17.
"I've seen it a bunch of times, but I've never been a part of a production," Fitzgerald said. "This year we had the people and we had the time. It just seemed to be the right year for it."
Sophomore Samantha Katz — who's playing Gwendolyn Fairfax — and senior Chance Hansen — who's playing Algernon Moncrieff — are both looking forward to seeing how the production will unfold and "hopefully making the audience laugh," Hansen said.
"Once the set, costumes and all the actors are on stage together, I think it's going to be really cool and I'm just really excited to see this show as a whole," Katz said.
Fitzgerald is looking forward to the challenges the actors will have with masking their emotions because of the large difference between what the characters say and how they feel.
"What I like about it is that it's super funny and a lot of the humor comes from pointing out the ways that goofy people behave, so I think that's part of the charm," Fitzgerald said.
Junior Nate Rasmussen agrees and is looking forward to leading a double life with his character, Jack Worthing, also known as Ernest.
"I love the dynamic I have with all the characters," Rasmussen said. "Also the script doesn't have a lot of punch lines most people would get but it's still very goofy and funny without it necessarily being humorous."
The show is recommended for ages 12 and up.