Inside Look: "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Cheryl Ratliff

Cheryl Ratliff

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.
— Oscar Wilde
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I have always been in awe of the process of putting on a theater production. A group of strangers comes together, with all their different backgrounds, experiences and personal interpretations of a play, and over the course of a few weeks, they create a cohesive whole.

The actors, in my experience, become a family of sort. I have been very fortunate to have always felt a strong bond with my fellow cast mates, as we have supported and encouraged each other through the adventure that is each and every production I have had the pleasure of taking part in. The cast of The Importance of Being Earnest is no exception. Many practices have felt more like a cast party than work, and yet we somehow still get the job done. There has been such an outpouring of support and encouragement between cast members, I have never really experienced anything quite like it. I love sharing this experience with these incredibly talented actors.

One example of the party that has become rehearsals comes from the night we ran the third act of the play as a musical. Not all of us were very confident in singing our lines, yet with the encouragement of each other and the occasional round of applause, each one of us committed to the task. Over the course of the scene the musical stylings of opera, country, rap, reggae, and even beat box were employed, and by the end of the act I was weak with laughter. The same is true whenever we have a “fun run”. When one considers the stress and pressure that inherently comes with a theatre production, it has been incredibly refreshing to work with such a playful, fun-loving group of people.

It has also been an amazing experience to watch the characters of the play come to life. Every artist knows that you leave part of yourself on your work. Whether it is poetry, visual arts, or drama, you find traces of the artist in the finished product. I believe it is simply not possible to breath life into ones creation without putting a part of your self into your work. To take an idea of a person, words on a page, and give it life, well, it is nothing short of alchemy. One becomes the character, and the character is embodied within the actor. For instance, Caleb’s portrayal of his character Dr. Chasuble is very much his own creation. While he is true to the character as he is written, Caleb has been able to give such a spark of life to the role that he has become my favorite character. Truly, each cast member has brought their own touch of magic to the roles for which they were cast. It has been fascinating to watch these lovable characters become more and more real with each day.

I am so thankful for the honor it has been to take part in The Importance of Being Earnest. As we begin our final week of rehearsals, I cannot help but wish we had more time. Not because I am afraid we won’t be ready, or that we need more time to prepare. On the contrary, I am so excited to present this wonderful play to the public. I only wish we had more time together as a cast. I don’t want the party to end. The closing of a play is always bittersweet. While we can look back on our accomplishment with pride and fondness, we as a cast will never have quite the same experience again. I suppose that is part of the magic of theatre as well. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Some things are more precious because they don’t last long”.

 

Cheryl Ratliff

The cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest" is performing at the Yorkshire Playhouse July 27-30 and Aug 3-6. Click here to learn more about the show!