Above: ELHS students rehearse The Importance of Being Earnest
Tonight is the opening night of East Lansing High School’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The show will run all weekend and conclude with a 2PM matinee on Sunday.
The Importance of Being Earnest tells the satirical tale of a trivial pursuit of love in high society London. Oscar Wilde was a 19th century writer and playwright who “could compete with Shakespeare for the title of the most quoted playwright,” according to the ELHS Theater webpage.
Jack Worthing (Connor Foley) visits his best friend Algernon (Matt Wiesner) in London, where he leads a second life away from his home in the country, and goes by the name Earnest. When the two men fall in love, their significant others both believe they are in love with a man named Earnest. Confusion and hilarity ensues.
Algernon’s fiancée Cecily is played by high school senior Kaleel VanVoorhees, who’s made appearances in past productions such as The Man Who Came to Dinner and The Wiz; she and I shared the stage on those plays and some others. Director Mark Shaheen’s selections for the fall play tend to be tough scripts, and challenge the actors to push their performance. For VanVoorhees, even though it can be hard work, a lot of theater is “having fun and connecting with people. That’s a big thing that you learn in the theater just because you’re always with them all the time.”
Set in the 1890s, the ELHS production of Oscar Wilde’s last play features Victorian period sets and costumes designed and created by the student tech crew. The ELHS Tech Crew typically begins preparing the set for a production early in the school year, even before audition days occur.
With a cast of just nine students, there are some new faces among the veterans of the stage. Connor Foley is returning to the stage for his second performance after last year’s spring musical Legally Blonde. Foley tells me his role this fall is a big leap from last year, and that he “went from having 10 lines to 70 pages, being in almost every page.”
The show opens Thursday at 7PM, and will run again on Friday and Saturday at 7:30PM, concluding with a matinee performance on Sunday at 2PM. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.
East Lansing High School is located at 509 Burcham Drive.