ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
USD 480 will have no shortage of entertainment this month, with Cottonwood Elementary School presenting “Shrek: The Musical Jr.” later this month and next week, Liberal High School will be presenting the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde on April 21, 22 and 23, with evening performances being April 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. and a matinee performance being at 2 p.m. April 23. All performances will be in Maskus Auditorium at Liberal High School and tickets are $3.
The play follows two bachelors, John ‘Jack’ Worthing and Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their boring lives and attempt to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only love men called Ernest. Throughout the show, they struggle to keep up with their own stories and ultimately become tangled in misadventure, and there are a couple small subplots to also keep up with. The play also makes fun of some of the British aristocracy and different societal codes that were around when the play was originally written in 1895. Director Miriam Climenhaga said putting the show together has been a great time.
“We've had a shorter rehearsal period this time around, which has been a little harder for us, but the cast has really been having fun and working really hard. The cast is also somewhat smaller than I usually have, there are seven speaking roles and a few non-speaking roles,” Climenhaga said. “Being a smaller ensemble allows everyone to get to know each other better and come up with some of their own little twists on the characters. Since the show takes place in England, the students have also had a lot of fun working on their British accents, which has been fun to watch. The students have also had fun tapping into the show's humor, they weren't entirely sure about it when they started since it is an older show and humor was a lot different back then, and that's also been really fun to watch.”
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a show Climenhaga said she has wanted to for a few years now.
“I've wanted to do 'The Importance of Being Earnest' for a while because I think it's a really funny show and it's just a great one to put on. I was a little worried about doing it since the show's in the public domain now, but it's nice to do a show that's in the public domain because that means you don't have to pay royalties,” Climenhaga said. “I had narrowed the spring show down to three choices and had the students vote on which one they wanted to do, and 'The Importance of Being Earnest' was the show that won the day. I've wanted to do this show for a few years, but there's always been SOMETHING that's stood in the way, and I'm excited this is the year we'll finally get to put it on.”
With opening night so close, Climenhaga said the cast and crew are excited.
“There are some nerves because like I said, this has been a shorter rehearsal period, but the students have done a lot more as far as learning their lines and blocking than they're giving themselves credit for,” Climenhaga said. “It actually somewhat feels like we just started everything, but the students have come a lot farther than they're giving themselves credit for. The cast is all having so much fun with it, and they're really into it, which I think will carry over into the show weekend. I'm looking forward to fully putting the set together and getting the costumes and props ready for everyone – when all of that comes together, that's when you really have a show. We're working on everything and we're just really excited to have people in town see our work.”
Overall, Climenhaga said, she hopes there is a lot of community support for the show and the students involved.
“Everyone's really excited to be doing this play. I always say, it's not really a play without an audience, and we would love to see as many people as possible out there in the seats. It's a funny show and it's an old classic – there are several shows I can think of that are classics that should be put on by high school drama departments at least once, and this is one of them,” Climenhaga said. “It's also really fun to be working on a England-set show in Liberal, it's been a good experience for the students. And also, it's to support the students, they've put so much work into this show – for our seniors, this is their final show, so I'd love to see their high school careers end on a high note. I'm really proud of what the students have been able to do and I hope to see a lot of people in the audience. We've had really great support for all our productions this year, and I'd like to see that trend continue with 'The Importance of Being Earnest.'”