Inside Curtain Players
Posted: September 11, 2016
Got Rehearsal? Lady Bracknell: Not Such a Drag After All
When Curtain Players opens its season with The Importance of Being Earnest, patrons may be surprised to discover that the character of Lady Bracknell is actually...a woman.
Through its long history of being cast as a drag role, the starchy Lady Augusta Bracknell is nearly expected to be a cross-dresser. Fortunately for Curtain Players, Jill Taylor also has a long history of being cast in The Importance of Being Earnest. She's played both Gwendolen and Cecily in acting classes, and Lady Bracknell in a full run in New York.
"I showed up thinking that I would be perfect for Gwendolen because I was 31, 32 years old, and I was the oldest woman who could actually act that showed up. So they offered me Bracknell, and I was woefully unprepared to play the role."
This time around she hopes to reinterpret the role.
"I think Bracknell is one gigantic trap for an actor," Taylor explained. "It's very easy to play everything very arch and snide. She is described as a monster by the other characters. But the reality is she's not a monster. She's a woman. They just dislike her old-fashioned ideas, and she's trying to impose this form on them that they feel like they no longer need to follow."
Bracknell, snobbish yet remarkably observant, is serious business for Taylor, who's going for genuine comedy, rather than a "layer" of comedy that results from gender bending instead of the humor of Wilde's ingenious lines.
"[The men playing Bracknell] do take it very seriously when they play it in drag, but so much of it becomes about the man in drag being a woman being funny," said Taylor. "it's funny when she's prissy... because it's a man, not because it's funny in the script."
The Importance of Being Earnest, a play about marriage, morality, and sincerity, was originally a comment on Victorian society, yet is still remarkably funny today.
"It really has withstood the test of time " said Taylor.