Friday, June 30, 2023

WCST preparing to stage Oscar Wilde play this fall

By R.D. Frum

The curtain is about to rise for Windham Center Stage Theater as it continues its 49th season with the play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

Windham Center Stage Theater will present
'The Importance Of Being Earnest' by
Oscar Wilde from Sept. 8 through Sept. 24
Melanie Quackenbush, vice president of the Board of Directors, and Chelsea Richardson, treasurer of the Board of Directors, will serve as the directors for this play.,

The Windham Center Stage Theater has been around since 1974 when Harry Grey shared the story of a theatre company he had once directed in Canada at a meeting with Frank Brautigum. Intrigued by the concept of community theater, Brautigum asked Grey if such a group could be started in Windham. They were immediately motivated by the idea and quickly published a notice of the organizational meeting in the local newspaper.

The earliest program, which is still kept in the theater group’s archives, was created for the production “The Apple Tree” and was presented at Saint Joseph's College in Standish on Feb. 28 and March 1, 1975. Tickets were only $2.50 each. On March 18, 1978, a grand opening event was conducted to mark the Windham Community Theater's relocation to the Community Center at the Windham Town Hall. The use of the garage area there was granted to WCST in 1985.

Like other community theater groups, Windham Center Stage Theater had to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual fundraisers took place to keep the theater going.

“This year we sat down…and we want to do something that doesn’t cost us a lot of money because we had two years where we didn’t really make any…because everything was virtual, and we were shut down,” Quackenbush said.

Choosing what show or set of shows to put on for each season is a year-round process for WCST.

“We have one big meeting where we sort of hash everything out,” Quackenbush says. Over the course of the season members of the Board of Directors collect show ideas to go over at the annual meeting. Each season consists of one straight play, a children’s show that is always a musical, and at least one musical.”

Quackenbush says that WCST can perform what the theater group already has rights for, because obtaining theater rights, especially musical theater rights, are a process.

“What can we get that isn’t going to cost a bunch of money? How much things are going to cost really plays into it, musicals are always more expensive than straight plays,” she said. “Musicals I find to be more fun, but there’s also a lot more that goes into it because you have a music director, a choreographer, all these people, and there’s a lot more moving parts to it.”

While auditions for shows at the Windham Center Stage Theater usually occur in person, those trying out for The Importance of Being Earnest were allowed to do either a self-taped, on Zoom, or by in-person audition. For a play, people will then act out a certain scene or monologue from the show.

“When they read, we’re having them read once in their normal voice, and we’re having them read a second time with a British accent,” Quackenbush said. “When you do a musical, it’s very much the same thing for the acting, but then you also have...a singing performance of some kind...and they have you do a dance audition as well where they will teach you 16 bars of a dance.”

“The Importance of Being Earnest was written by Oscar Wilde,” Quackenbush said. “The whole premise of the story is that there are these two gentlemen who have essentially created alternate personalities for themselves, so they can be one person when they’re in town and they can be someone else when they’re in the country. There are these two young ladies that these gentlemen are enamored of who think that both of their names are Earnest.”

The play is set during the Victorian era, but Windham Center Stage Theater plans to update it to bring the play into the 21st century when it is performed.

“It’s…silly, funny, mistaken identity and what happens when the person you’re pretending to be and the person you are…come to a head,” Quackenbush says.

The Importance of Being Earnest is taking center stage in Windham from Sept. 8 through Sept. 24. <

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