Our next show of the summer season is an original show by Ben Brawner and Ginger Simons. They have created a loose adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. They took the witty dialogue and farcical components of this late Victorian era classic comedy, and translated them to take place during the California Gold Rush. This change of setting and social structure create a whole new world of laughs.
To prepare you for this production, we asked Ben and Ginger to provide us with more insight into the show and their process.
What makes your version/telling of this story different?
Ginger – Ben and I were very fortunate because when writing the script, we could take what we liked of the source material and then add whatever we wanted to it. It’s a very freeing process, because the groundwork is there, and then you can just run with it. The script has a lot of both of us in it, and the original Oscar Wilde play gave us a good framework to play around in.
What character do you connect with and why?
Ginger – I wrote a lot of the sections with Margaret Blackwood, and I realized that I see a lot of myself in her character. She’s a romantic, yes, but she also isn’t about to be carried away by nonsense. She’s grounded, and values honesty. Of the characters in the show, I think she might be the closest thing to something like a moral compass. She can be a little ball of anger, too, and that’s very me.
Ben – I empathize most with the character of Willis. Despite being a generally wacky character, he finds moments in the play to show off a fountain of pure wit. I think audiences are going to get a genuine kick out of him.
What is this show about (broad themes)?
Ginger – I think on a really surface level, it’s about the things that people do in order to get what they want. In the context of this story, that something is love, but it really can apply to all scenarios. Virgil and Willis both lie and create false personas to get what they want. Margaret and Clara have very particular standards to make sure they get what they want. It really works against the backdrop of the Gold Rush, because it’s a story all about desire. Some characters are more virtuous than others, but I think it’s really a show about desire will make people do.
What inspired you to tell this story?
Ginger – The answer for this one is boring: I wanted to do an adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, and Ben had the idea to set it during the Gold Rush. It just sort of happened from there. I will say, it’s refreshing to write something that’s an outright comedy. A lot of the stuff I’ve written so far hasn’t been quite so silly, and it’s nice to cut loose and write a bunch of dumb jokes.
What inspires you about this story?
Ginger – It kind of speaks to my inner romantic. Even the characters who aren’t a part of the romantic plot all want something (namely gold). They’re all dreamers who just want happy, prosperous lives, even though they do some wacky things to get there. The characters bend over backwards to get what they want, when maybe they didn’t have to go through a bunch of hoops to get it. Maybe it was always waiting for them, and they just had to reach for it.
Ben – Very few people have had the capability of bending language to their will in the way Oscar Wilde did. Though, I know very well that reaching that level of wit is a hail mary pass, I am proud of the fact that audiences are going to be able to enjoy an ode to classical comedy.