'Importance of Being Earnest' opens Friday under Corn Stock's tent

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"In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing."

The above line is spoken by the character Gwendolyn in the Oscar Wilde classic comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest." That line, more than any other, tells the story of the characters and the show itself, says John Johnson.

"It's a comment about the characters we are presenting. They are so shallow we laugh at them and yet we have people in our world today that we watch and follow," he said.

(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Caleb Finley, who portrays Algernon, and Cassandra Irwin, who is Cecily, are shown during a recent dress rehearsal of "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Corn Stock Theatre. The show opens Friday under the Corn Stock tent in Upper Bradley Park."Who we pay attention to in real life are not that much different than these characters."

Johnson is directing "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Corn Stock Theatre, the second offering in its summer season under the tent at Upper Bradley Park. The show opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. and continues through Saturday, June 30.

Tickets are on sale at the Corn Stock box office for $12 for adults and $10 for students. They can be ordered by calling 676-2196.

The play is set in the London area and centers around the shenanigans of two friends, Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing, each of whom reinvents himself to win the affections of the woman he loves. That includes each calling himself Earnest.

It is only after the truth is known that the true nature of each is revealed, including the importance each puts on life.

Johnson has assembled a cast of Peoria community theatre veterans as well as a couple newcomers.

Jeff Craig, who last summer performed in "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Corn Stock, portrays John Worthing while Caleb Finley, last seen in a dress in the Peoria Players production of "Chicago" as Mary sunshine, plays Algernon Moncrieff.

Cassandra Irwin, who performed in Plaza Suite at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse, portrays Cecily Cardew. Lindsey Kaupp makes her Peoria stage debut in the role of Gwendolyn Fairfax and Helen Engelbrecht portrays Lady Bracknell.(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Lindsey Kaupp, left, as Gwendolyn, Jeff Craig as John and Helen Engelbrecht as Lady Bracknell rehearse a scene from "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Corn Stock Theatre.

Other actors are Jillian Rebmann as Miss Prism, Paul Gordon as Dr. Chasuble, Delbert Bohm as Merriman and Nate Downs as Lane.

This marks Johnson's directorial debut at the tent and he said he submitted "The Importance of Being Earnest" because he believes it fits well with what Corn Stock wants to offer audiences during the summer.

"I just really felt that this light comedy was so appropriate for the summer tent setting. It is really good for what we do out here, which is offer shows that are lighter, funny, uplifting maybe. And I wanted to do something that hasn't been done here for a long time," he said.

He added he was very surprised to learn such a classic comedy as "The Importance of Being Earnest" has never before been performed at Corn Stock. "I am pleased to be the first to do it here," he said.

Johnson has directed before at Corn Stock's Winter Playhouse but said the pressure and expectations are different at the tent. "But I was able to get a group of people I have thoroughly enjoyed working with, old friends and new friends, and I am for more inclined to direct in the tent again if other opportunities co e along," he said.

"I believe we are going to give our audiences a really good show. If we give them some laughs and maybe a little something to think about, we have done our job," he said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).