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The Comic Appeal of Playwright Oscar Wilde

Tim Troy, the Chair of the Theatre Deptartment at Lawrence University, says he’s going to try to do two things in the upcoming July seminar held at Peninsula Players Theater: explain why Wilde’s funny and talk about the mechanics of how that humor works.

Troy will use two short scenes to demonstrate the cultural edge in the well-known farce, The Importance of Being Earnest.

“You can see where he sets up a joke that will happen later, or he’ll turn a concept on its head,” Troy said. “He takes that notion of what’s private or personal and makes it public. You are aware of the author. It’s composed in a way that always reminds us that Oscar Wilde is in the background.”

Troy will also discuss the “insider, outsider” point of view, which appears in many of Wilde’s works and comes from his position as an Irishman living in England.

Troy said, “He’s fully an anglophile and he could live in British culture comfortably, but he was always perceived as an outsider because of his Irish heritage. In British culture you could be fully accepted, but there’s still an asterisk by your name.”

The play is a farce, which means it’s deliberately written to be funny and a bit shallow. Wilde makes fun of the mannered and artificial nature of the Victorian culture. If the Victorian culture wasn’t almost farcical itself, you couldn’t imagine the events of the plot unfolding.

“There’s always that edge with Wilde. He wants us to take a deeper look at what it is we’re laughing at. He’s really kind of saying, ‘You’re all idiots! Look what games you’re playing!’ It might complete the experience to know that element’s present,” Troy said.

Saturday Seminar Series

Peninsula Players Theater’s summer seminar series takes place on the following Saturdays from 2:30 – 4 pm. Space is limited to 50 people for each event so call the box office at 920.868.3287 to reserve your spot.

• July 16: “So Why is Oscar Wilde So Darn Funny?” with Lawrence University’s Timothy X. Troy and company members

• August 6: “You Can’t Handle Military Justice” with a panel to be announced

• August 27, Sept 17, 24, Oct 1, 8, and 15 with topics and presenters to be announced later.