Barbara Hatch loves classic plays and is delighted to be directing the Santa Fe Playhouse’s new production of Oscar Wilde’s popular comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which opens on November 29 and runs through December 16.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is an 1895 farce about two young gentlemen in London who are leading double lives and creating elaborate deceptions to escape their social obligations.
The play, which addresses the institution of marriage and social expectations and satirizes Victorian upper class customs, focuses on Algernon and Jack, who lead double lives and are members of England’s upper class.
Each man has created another identity in another community. Things become complicated when both Jack and Algernon fall in love, and the women they adore know them by their false identities.
“It’s a play about deep people saying silly things,” says Hatch, who teaches theater at New Mexico School for the Arts. “The play is so loved that there were 59 actors auditioning for nine roles.”
Hatch has never directed the play before, although she says she’s read it a thousand times. Initial rehearsals were centered on discussing the play’s words and what the characters were really saying.
“Once everyone got comfortable with the words, we were able to focus on the subtleties of looks, glances and movements,” Hatch adds. “Rehearsals have been a big journey of discovery for me. I feel I now have a deeper understanding of the play.”
First performed at the St James’s Theatre in London, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is Wilde’s most popular play and has been presented numerous times through the years on stages around the world. It’s been adapted for the cinema three times (1952, 1992 and 2002).