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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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College alumni to present Wilde’s comedy

Prepare yourself for a night of laughter.

That’s a heads-up from Brian Harber, director of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” set to play out on stage at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28-30 in Puckett Auditorium at Florida College, 119 N. Glen Arven Ave.

The production — which Harber contends is bound to be a crowd pleaser — is being presented by Florida College alumni under the name of the Florida College Tampa Bay Booster Club Stage Right Theater Company. Proceeds benefit the booster club’s scholarship fund for the college’s enrollees.

Written by noted playwright Oscar Wilde, the original play premiered in 1895 at the St. James Theatre in London. His last and most famous work is both a romantic comedy as well as a satire of the Victorian era.

It centers around two young Englishmen who, on the sly, take on fake identities. It seems to work just fine until they each fall in love with women while sporting their assumed names.

“It’s my kind of humor — very sharp and extremely self-deprecating,” said Harber, a 2009 Florida College graduate and now the school’s marketing department art director who also plays the leading role of Jack, a pillar of the community who uses his alter-ego Ernest to escape the straight-laced boundaries of his real life.

Benjamin Payne, the son of Florida College President H. E. “Buddy” Payne, Jr. and a 1999 Florida College graduate, portrays Algernon Moncrieff, the play’s secondary hero.

He depicts Algernon as a charming and brilliant bachelor who, on the flip side, is amoral and selfish. He’s also a man who cleverly assumes the role of Bunbury as a way of indulging himself in life’s self-serving pleasures.

“Algernon is always a role I wanted to play because it’s witty, it’s fun and I like the dialogue,” said Benjamin Payne, who by day is a Florida College music professor.

Priscilla Thompson, a 2009 graduate of Florida College and current third-grade teacher, takes the role of Cecily Cardew, a carefree and imaginative young woman who, like Jack and Algernon, is known to be a fantasist.

“Cecily is surprising and very, very silly,” said Thompson, whose upbeat demeanor she likens to her own.

“Brian (Harber) told me before I tried out for the part that he had me in mind for this role,” she said.

Thompson, who praises Harber for his outstanding work in directing the seven-member cast, calls “The Importance of Being Earnest” the best written play she has ever been a part of or seen.

“The dialogue is incredible,” she said.

Other cast members and their respective characters include Florida College graduates David Lopez as Lane/Gribsby, Janice McDonald as Lady Bracknell, Melody Baughman as Gwendolyn and Megan McDonald as Miss Prism.

Mindy Gallagher is producer/stage manager.

Tickets are $20 each and may be purchased online at www.florida college.edu/EARNEST. For more information, email [email protected] .edu.

Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]

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