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NY Mills students to show 'The Importance of Being Earnest'

The cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest," at a rehearsal on Monday. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS

The New York Mills School drama department will lift the curtain on "The Importance of Being Earnest" this Friday.

Students will perform a one-act version of the classic Oscar Wilde play at the NY Mills Regional Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Cost will be $5 for adults, $3 for kids, with all funds going to the drama department.

"It's a fun comedy, and it's a fun thing to do on a Friday night, just to get out and experience some theatre, which is few and far between in our area," said Carri Ann Pollard, director of the show. "It's subtle humor, because it's polite - and it's British."

"The Importance of Being Earnest" is the story of characters that escape social obligations by taking on false personas. The play is famous for treating serious institutions such as marriage with triviality, and for satirizing Victorian ways. The full version was first performed in London in 1895.

This version has been scaled down and edited to fit the requirements of the One Act Play Contest, a school competition sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League. According to the rules, Pollard explained, the play has to be 30 minutes long or less and must contain only a small number of furnishings, set pieces and props.

"It's all about the ability of the actors, rather than special effects," Pollard said. "It's about the actors being able to deliver the play in a communicative way that will resonate with the audience."

NY Mills will also be performing this show in a regional competition against at least five other schools, starting at 9 a.m. at the Wadena Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 28. The public is welcome to attend this show, as well.

Rehearsals for "The Importance of Being Earnest" began at the beginning of January, and Pollard said they've been intense but also a lot of fun. There's a good group of kids involved, she said, with nine students in the cast - the biggest cast yet. This is Pollard's first year directing, though she's been involved in the drama department for four years.

Participation in the One Act Play gives students the chance to explore elements of theatre that they don't always get to with bigger productions, said Pollard. With the spring musical, for example, the kids have so much to do and learn in their own designated roles, that there's little time to step outside their own boxes. As Pollard explained it, they usually just take the direction, instead of being involved in the directing.

But with this show, she said, students have had the opportunity to help direct, to provide input, to practice their improvisational skills, and to "flex their creative muscles."

In the end, "it helps them comprehend the play a little bit more, so that when they perform it they can deliver it to the audience in the way that they want them to receive it," she said.