A Play About a Good Woman

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Your Humble Blogger will be playing Cecil Graham in Lady Windermere’s Fan this spring. If you don’t remember the character, he’s one of the lads, one of Lord Windermere’s friends who attends the ball (six lines in Act II) and then stands around trading witty comments in Lord Darlington’s rooms after they are all thrown out of the club (thirty-nine lines in Act III) (unless they cut some of them; I haven’t seen our performance script yet), one of the largely interchangeable witty and cynical minor characters in the four Oscar Wilde plays and the dozens of imitations. I get to say my experience is that as soon as people are old enough to know better, they don’t know anything at all and Wicked women bother one. Good women bore one. That is the only difference between them.

It’s not a very good part, honestly. If I were to list my preference for parts in this play, it would start with Tuppy (a frankly wonderful part, but there are jokes about his stoutness, and while I am no longer thin, I am not yet stout enough for the jokes, I suppose), then Dumby (like Cecil, but with better lines), then Lord Windermere (who I am too old to play, and who isn’t very interesting or witty anyway), then Lord Darlington (who I am also too old to play), and then Cecil. Actually, I am too old to play Cecil, only because I think it’s much funnier if Cecil is one of those super-sophisticated, utterly jaded, weary and patronizing nineteen-year-olds.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Windermere on stage. And the only film I’ve seen is A Good Woman, which changed all the dialogue, so it doesn’t count. I’ve seen Ernest, of course, and I’ve seen A Woman of No Importance and Salome, and that’s it for Oscar Wilde. Well, I have read Windermere several times, and I’ve read Dorian Gray and many of the fairy stories and some of the poems (I’m rather embarrassingly fond of “The Harlot’s House”) and other short stories and essays. I am very fond of Oscar Wilde, as a historical personage and a writer.

The one really good thing, though, about being in the play (apart from simply being in a show again, after many months) is that I assume I will get to wear evening dress. I’m not sure exactly what I would put Cecil in. Lady Windermere says specifically that it isn’t a ball, but a simple dance, “small and early”, so I would think not white tie, but black tie and tails. He must have a boutonnière, probably something frilly like a dyed carnation (not green but perhaps a pale yellow) or a blue cornflower, or even a sprig of lavender. Yes, lavender would be excellent. Or statice. At any rate, when the men arrive at the afterparty at Lord Darlington’s rooms, they should still be in evening gear, or the remnants thereof, but with hats and coats and scarves and umbrellas and so on, which we would either keep on or strew about the room. But we’ll see what the director wants.

Anyway, I expect I will be posting more notes about the text of the play, my preparation, and other exciting trivia of the community-theater life. The other day, I heard a PSA on the radio, encouraging people to get their kids involved in some activity alongside grown-ups, claiming that teenagers who were involved in such an activity regularly were less likely to take up drugs. The example activity was community theater, and I’m afraid my reaction was No! Marijuana is cheaper and less addictive! Probably, the poor decision-making under the influence is about the same, although I will say this for community theater: the risk of jail time is quite low.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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