“All bets hinge on chance, fate, accident… and a fan.”
As Mamaí Theatre Company prepares to get “Wilde” with their latest piece, Lady Windermere’s Fan, director Bernadette Clemens shares some thoughts about Oscar Wilde, Edwardian times, and more.
Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde opens tonight (July 14, 2016) and plays through July 31, 2016 at the Cleveland Masonic Performing Arts Center (DeMolay Room, 3615 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland).
Kate Klotzbach: Bernadette, what drew you as a director to this show?
Bernadette Clemens: I’ve always wanted to direct Oscar Wilde. I’ve always wanted to be Oscar Wilde. I’ve always wanted to bring Lady Windermere’s Fan to Cleveland. Why don’t companies here produce any of his works beyond extraneous productions of The Importance of Being Earnest? I can’t wait to do Salome, for example. For this 2016 slot, I had trouble deciding between Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Woman of No Importance. I had to re-read them again and again to suss it out. They are so similar in their subjects of humor, their fallen-woman plot, their attack on male ignorance and entitlement (ahem, I mean, in 1892 of course, right?).
Kate Klotzbach: What do you find challenging about Wilde?
Bernadette Clemens: Wilde is a genius. That’s what challenging about Wilde. He has a particular genius, too. If among English masters Shakespeare’s genius is the language itself, then Wilde’s genius is words. There is no English playwright who plays with the mind while simultaneously playing with words more, than Oscar Wilde. And as a playwright in the sense of his ability to craft flawless scenes that flow in four short acts to form the perfect journey for an audience, again, there is no one better. Sometimes he even makes Shaw look clunky. Sometimes he even makes Ibsen look dreary. Wilde is as brilliant as he is entertaining, as subversive as he is polite. Actors have to work very, very hard to pull that off.
Kate Klotzbach: What have you learned about this play from your cast members during your journey together?
Bernadette Clemens: I’ve learned that the play is a far more bitter, fierce attack on the human flaws that are at the root of social ills that continue to plague us. I’ve learned that Wilde can be funny and tragic within the span of two seconds, and I’ve learned that true artists make the very difficult appear to be absolutely effortless.
Kate Klotzbach: For those unfamiliar with the piece, what can audience members expect from this play?
Bernadette Clemens: Expect that this production will not be what you think it will be. It will surprise you from the moment the curtain goes up. Expect to laugh, and expect to laugh harder, and then expect a sudden dark realization to dawn, and then expect to walk out wishing we were producing the rest of Oscar Wilde’s plays this season, too.
Kate Klotzbach: What are the political / social similarities and differences between an era of “Edwardian social change” and today – Cleveland in 2016?
Bernadette Clemens: There are no political differences that I see between London 1892 and Anytown, USA 2016, sadly, as far as the multiple double-standards exposed in this play, except for two: 1) women are now legally permitted to own property in their own names, and 2) women can vote. Other than that, nothing has changed. I would be able to respond differently, happily, if in an election season like this one, one found that media refer to “Clinton and Donald” rather than “Hillary and Trump”.
The cast features Heather Boll, Mary Alice Beck, Tari Lyn Bergoine, Hannah Cohen, Robert Hawkes, Stuart Hoffman, Rachel Lee Kolis, Doug Kusak, Jill Levin, Lynna Metrisin, Nate Miller, Patrick Mooney, Chris Ross, Laura Starnik, Carrie Williams, and Tony Zanoni.
And so I leave you with the official plug for the show –
Oscar Wilde fans the flames of Edwardian social change with his typical adroitness. Comedy and manners offer a tongue-lashing, suspenseful assault on Victorian values. An attractive stranger invades the domestic bliss of Lady & Lord Windermere, and her past has the potential to drastically alter their future. Lord Darlington plays a hand. All bets hinge on chance, fate, accident… and a fan.
http://www.mamaitheatreco.org or 440.394.8353
Seniors (65 & older): $20
Students (25 & under): $15
Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde opens tonight and plays through July 31, 2016 at the Cleveland Masonic Performing Arts Center (DeMolay Room, 3615 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland).