HAMLET & THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Set for Oak Park Festival Theatre's 40th Season

HAMLET & THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Set for Oak Park Festival Theatre's 40th Season

Oak Park Festival Theatre (OPFT), the Midwest's oldest Equity outdoor classical theatre, announces its 40th season: Hamlet directed by Lavina Jadwahli and The Importance of Being Earnest directed by Kevin Theis.

These two masterpieces, one tragic and the other comic, share a core theme of family, its definition and demands. Over the last forty summers OPFT has become a family tradition. Children brought forty years ago to picnic and discover the magical experience of professional theatre under the starts now return with their children and grandchildren to the woodland haven that is Austin Gardens in the heart of downtown Oak Park.

Artistic Director Jack Hickey states: "Our 40th anniversary is an amazing achievement for any theatre company, and a momentous accomplishment for an Actors' Equity company. By the time The Importance of Being Earnest closes our season, we will have produced 28 plays in just the past 10 years. That's almost as many as we produced in our first THIRTY years."

To co-commemorate our 40th birthday, we open with his most famous tragedy. The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, directed by Lavina Jadhwani (director of last season's smash hit Twelfth Night) is set in a late 1920's Chicago gangland "family." This places the classical tragedy of family loyalties, betrayal and revenge in a world in which strict codes of honor collide with shifting orders. Jadwahli says of her production: "Setting the well-known and much beloved Hamlet in the waning days of the turbulent Prohibition Era which bridged the Jazz Age and the Great Depression creates for contemporary audiences an immediately identifiable world wherein the laws of family, justice and honor are, indeed, 'out of joint'."

We begin in the Hotel Denmark, a world full of lust and sin, where something is indeed "Rotten". Young Hamlet must decide if he wants to play by the rules of this society and attempt to take down Capo Claudius or leave this world altogether. We invite you to join us in this decadent period to explore the question, "How far would you go to protect your family?"

The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Festival favorite Kevin Theis, arguably Oscar Wilde's most famous work also examines the definition and demands of family within the strict social order of aristocratic Edwardian London. Wilde hilariously skewers both those who set and those who slip around society's strictures.

Director and Artistic Associate Kevin Theis says: "The list of perfect plays is very, very short. But among them simply must be, The Importance of Being Earnest, which has not merely stood the test of time but has proven, time and again, to be the crown jewel of comedic achievements. Jack, Algernon, Gwendolyn, Cecily, Chasuble, Prism and the unflappable and legendary Lady Bracknell are indelible and iconic figures in the English speaking theatre. My approach is straightforward: serve the play and the author, give the actors all the tools they need to bring this magnificent show to life and then...get out of the way. We are doing the show in the period it was written (because I'm a rebel!) with a female Lady Bracknell (ditto) and I am fascinated to see how it plays in the park. I have little doubt it will shine as brightly as ever."

Hamlet - Cast
Will Clinger*(Ghost/Player King/Gravedigger), John Croswaithe (Bernardo/Gravedigger 2), Luke Daigle (Guildenstern), Matt Gall (Rosencrantz), Jack Hickey*(Claudius), Kelly Lynn Hogan (Gertrude), Michael Joseph Mitchell*(Polonius), Michael McKeogh (Hamlet), Jackson McLaughlin (Marcellus), Michael Mercier (Laertes), Jhenai Mootz (Osric/Player Queen), Sara Pavlak (Ophelia) & Michael Pogue (Horatio)

The Importance Of Being Earnest - Cast
Belinda Bremner* (Lady Bracknell), John Crosthwaite (Jack), Brooke Hebert (Cecily), Elise Kauzlaric (Gwendolyn), Jackson McLaughlin (Merriman), Mark Richard* (Chasuble), Brian Rooney (Lane), Jude Willis (Algernon) & Lynda Shadrake (Prism)

*Member of Actors Equity Association - the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers

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