Director Robin Roberts follows along with the script during rehearsal of “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Johnson Center For Fine Arts on the campus of Franklin College on Monday. Photos by Rob Baker | For the Daily Journal

A local college theatre department is taking on an Oscar Wilde classic.

Franklin College students will perform in “The Importance of Being Earnest” this week, with performances on Thursday through Sunday at the Theatre Margot in the Johnson Center for Fine Arts.

The production stems from Wilde’s 1895 play, which he subtitled, “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.” The production is the first of the school year and the first in the theatre since March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down performances of “The Wolves” after just one night, said Robin Roberts, the current production’s director.

“Earnest,” set in London, follows characters who put on personas to avoid social situations they don’t want to be a part of. Roberts originally wanted to direct the play last fall, but continued COVID-19 restrictions prevented him from doing so, he said.

“It’s considered one of the great comedies, and it presents challenges with the style of acting,” Roberts said. “I was up to the challenge and thought it would do well for students to be in this type of play.”

Roberts previously directed the college’s productions of “The Heidi Chronicles,” “Twelfth Night” and “The Bald Soprano.” The key is to give Franklin College’s theatre students an opportunity to be involved in a variety of plays across genres and time periods, he said.

“We think about what would serve our students. It’s a variety in terms of plays they’re in. Sometimes, it comes down to who is a good physical fit for a role, or if someone read very well for a role and has a good sense of it. If it’s an actor we’ve worked with before, maybe we’ll cast them in a different type of role and challenge them in some ways,” Roberts said.

Cameron McAbee is an example of that.

The Franklin College senior will play Cecily Cardew in “Earnest,” a character who seeks a romantic relationship with the title character because of his name. McAbee, who has also been involved in productions of “Into the Woods,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Heidi Chronicles,” plans to pursue either acting or directing after graduation, but said this may be the only time he gets to play a female role.

“It’s a lot of fun exploring how to carry yourself,” McAbee said. “I’m not playing someone I’m so used to playing, which is male. This is an opportunity to get a lens, and it may not be something I get in a professional role again. I’m trying to value that time I have while I still can, to find a way to perform respectfully and honestly and maintain a sense of decorum in that.”


What: Franklin College’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Theatre Margot in the Johnson Center for Fine Arts.

Cost: $12 General admission. $8 for students and seniors (55 and older). Free for Franklin College students, faculty and staff with valid Franklin College ID.

Masks required

To reserve: email [email protected] or call 317-738-8029 or 800-852-0232, ext. 8029 no later than 10 minutes before the performance.

Source: Franklin College