With Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde approaching, Communications Manager Bradley Akers sat down with Dave Alan Thomas (Director of Gross Indecency) and Karen Overstreet (Narrator 5 & Carson) to chat a little about the show. Check out the interview below!
DAVE ALAN THOMAS, Director - Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
1. What attracted you to directing Gross Indecency?
When I am compelled to direct a show, it is usually for one of two reasons: it will either be a challenging experience due to the difficult theatrical demands for those involved, which I will get the most growth out of as a director, or it is has subject matter that resonates with me in a personal manner. In this case, I can report that both are indeed true. With the difficult demands and great struggle our ensemble earns great reward. As we proceed through the rehearsal process, we continue to discover layers that will hopefully add to a remarkable theatrical experience. Additionally, as a teacher of British Literature and theatre and an educated gay man, the works of Oscar Wilde hold a special place in the canon for me.
2. Why is this play important/relevant today?
Perhaps no other event in the past two hundred years has had as much aftermath as these trials; Western culture was reshaped. Because of these trials, the term "homosexual" was born and men could be divided and prosecuted for being within this classification and a man could be put on trial for his thoughts or his artistic expression. New ways to discriminate permeated the legal systems of Europe and America. This fragmentation gave rise to groups to justify their hatred and intolerance. Even with the rise of LGBT pride and an embracing of diversity since Stonewall, we (humans) have not been reabsorbed into just being one entity - we are divided and subdivided while we seek equality as being human. But, those divisions can never be put back into the bottle. The genie of diversity was released. The LGBT community's way to cope with classification and being something other than the hetero-normative distinction was to embrace and celebrate the difference. So, the play, to me, reminds us that even with our labellings and differences that flood our current cultural consciousness, we are all human.
3. What has been the most fulfilling moment directing this show?
I am most fulfilled by the struggles that lead to insight. I think that actors, playwrights, and directors are drawn to theatre because we want to understand what it is to be human through the use of our chosen art form. Without too much personal elaboration, I can state that this is a show that may help the active participant, whether that be audience or company member, to discover something that will help define our personal place. If one gives this show the respect of thought that it deserves, new thoughts and conversation can emerge.
4. Can you briefly tell me about Gross Indecency?
The story at the center of the play: A father and a son have an ongoing antagonistic relationship; due to their fighting, Oscar Wilde is put into the center ring of the trial of the century. However, that is only the basic historical event. This play uses quoted text from various periods of history to discuss the trials, transcripts from court records, and a talented ensemble that transmogrify into an array of characters and spaces using the techniques of transformational drama. This play is not one-sided; it presents the accounts of the past, insight into the aftermath, and allows the audience to personally reflect on these events.
KAREN OVERSTREET, Actor - Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
1. Why were you attracted to Gross Indecency?
Oscar Wilde is for us today a brilliant, colorful, snarky writer and personality. What I appreciate about Gross Indecency is that it allows us to see not just that persona Wilde built for himself, but also the heart of the man underneath it.
2. Who do you play?
Like most actors in the show I actually play more than one character. My main character though is that of Edward Carson. Carson was the attorney for the defense of Lord Queensberry who was sued by Oscar Wilde for libel. Interestingly, Carson and Wilde were both Irish and had gone to school together. Carson was a great lover of the law and very gifted attorney. He was the youngest king’s counsel to be appointed in Ireland. Carson went on to be the leader of the Unionist movement in Ireland and lead Northern Ireland to remain part of Great Britain.
3. How has the process been for you as an actor?
Very challenging! The structure of the play is quite unique. It is essentially a documentary on stage rather than a traditional play where we try to immerse an audience in a time period. This structure in combination with the formal Victorian language spoken by many characters is difficult to weave into a pace and rhythm that works for performance.
Oh, and I play a man. I have had to ask my male cast members basic questions like “how do you carry books? “
4. What is the most fulfilling moment of the play for you?
The coda of the play is a poem written by Oscar Wilde. For me, this poem lays bare how heartbreaking the experience of the trials were for Wilde.
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