Natalia Spengler, front right, Lillian Odekirk, back left, and Zebadiah Bodine, back right, rehearse for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Natalia Spengler, front right, Lillian Odekirk, back left, and Zebadiah Bodine, back right, rehearse for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Theatre in the Rough to hold ‘Wilde’ tea parties

Company’s latest is ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’

Unlike some past offerings, Theatre in the Rough’s latest play won’t feature elaborate puppets, intricate woodwork or some of the other nonprofit theater company’s calling cards.

Aaron Elmore, Theatre in the Rough founder, said “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a play that involves fewer fantastical elements than a play like “Hamlet.”

“A lot of our usual tropes are on the shelves for this one,” Elmore said with a laugh.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some twists placed on the 19th century work by witty writer Oscar Wilde when it opens on Black Friday at McPhetres Hall.

For one, the upcoming production will be performed in the round, which means audiences will be able to see more than just a straight-ahead view of the stage.

“It’s turned out to be really exciting to have them that immediate,” Elmore said.

The play, which includes two afternoon tea scenes, will task actors with performing while actually eating food prepared by Betsy Longenbaugh.

[Theatre in the Rough’s ‘Hamlet’ won’t be like other productions]

“It’s been very fun and very particular,” Longenbaugh said of making food for a stage show. “You want to make something that is quite small, but is quite authentic.”

Lillian Odekirk holds tea during rehearsal for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lillian Odekirk holds tea during rehearsal for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

She said the script includes a lot of talk about muffins, so care was taken to make what a U.S. audience would call English muffins rather than the cupcake-like breakfast food. Also, since the food is to be eaten on stage, she made sure the portions would be manageable.

That’s been tricky, Longenbaugh said, since she’s also preparing for a Christmas Cream Tea event that will happen Dec. 7 at McPhetres Hall. Still, it’s mostly been an enjoyable challenge.

“It is actually very fun to do,” she said. “You’re trying to figure out food.”

Longenbaugh said the in-the-round aspect of the play combines in fun ways with the tea sessions.

“It really makes this food thing more important because it’s like your sitting in the room with them,” Longenbaugh said.

Aside from the in-person tea party atmosphere, Elmore said the comedy of manners that lampoons the stuffy Victorian-era upper crust, stands out for just being funny.

“It’s a great play,” Elmore said. “It’s been on our list for a while. It’s charming.”

[Cub Scouts make toys for education birds]

Elmore said care was taken to make sure Wilde’s timeless witticisms land, and that charm comes across.

“A lot of the jokes can get to the point where they’re just reported by the actor, and that’s enough, they’re funny, but we want to get a little deeper,” Elmore said.

Know & Go

What: “The Importance of Being Earnest”

When: Wednesday through Saturday evenings until Dec. 15 after a opening Friday, Nov. 29. The play starts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30, Dec.4-7 and Dec. 11-14. There are Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15.

Where: McPhetres Hall, 325 Gold St.

Admission: General admission costs $22; student and senior admission costs $15; admission for children 12 and younger costs $5. The play’s humor is not especially risque, but parents are encouraged to consider whether young children will be able to sit through a two-hour play with action driven primarily by verbal barbs. Tickets are available at the JACC, Hearthside, at the door even when sold-out online, and through jahc.org.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


Fisher Stevens portrays John “Jack” Worthing during rehearsals for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Fisher Stevens portrays John “Jack” Worthing during rehearsals for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Becky Orford rehearses for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Becky Orford rehearses for Theatre in the Rough’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at McPhetres Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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