An audience eagerly waits for Act 1 of Scholastic Awards alum Danna Hargett’s The Importance of Being Earnest to begin in the living room.

An audience eagerly waits for Act 1 of Scholastic Awards alum Danna Hargett’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest to begin in the living room.

It’s not exactly shocking to learn that Scholastic Art & Writing Award alums continue to be imaginative and innovative beyond our program—but we recently found one, through our LinkedIn Alumni Group who is “Wilde”-ly creative! We sent young cub reporter, intern and alum Ashley Zhou, to attend Danna Hargett’s unique production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Here’s her report:

“And how did you get in here, dear sir?” Algernon Moncrieff asks a giggling member of the audience.

“I believe your butler let me in,” he replies.

“Is that so? Lane! We must have a talk.”

Early in June, in the beautiful Lewis School in Princeton, NJ, an extraordinary production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was produced by Danna Hargett, whose play The Bipolar Spectrum won a Scholastic Awards’ Gold Medal in 1996. Though Earnest was originally to be performed in the Aquinas House, also in Princeton, the Lewis House’s sweeping staircase, charming garden, and traditional architecture perfectly invoked the 19th century, socialite lives of Wilde’s characters. The play was particularly well-suited for this unconventional staging, in which the audience as well as the actors moved from the living room, to the garden, to the foyer, because “it is so deeply personal, both in the subject matter and in the intimacy of the scenes,” says Danna.

The setting of Act 2, at John Worthington’s country home, in the garden of the Lewis house.

The setting of Act 2, at John Worthington’s country home, in the garden of the Lewis house.

Reactions to the play have been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s easy to see why when Algernon Moncrieff is bantering with you about why you haven’t brought your country clothes or when Gwendolyn Fairfax is asking how your journey back to London has been. Moving from room to room, the audience warms up to the idea that they are part of, not only the scene, but also the lives of the characters. This direct interaction may be more challenging for the actors, but it also “forces a stronger performance out of each actor,” according to Danna who herself played the role of Cecily Cardew.

Importance of Being Earnest 2

After Earnest, Danna definitely plans to continue producing plays. And as for playwriting? “Always write about things that feel true…Read or see as many plays and novels that you can get your hands on, especially what people consider literature. Don’t just read the ones you like, challenge yourself.”

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