The first weekend of April can be unpredictable—it can be lovely or snowy, bright or dull—but one thing is certain: Shakespeare comes to Middleburg.
This year’s Shakespeare in the ‘Burg festival features something unexpected—a play not by William Shakespeare. The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, a heady blend of humor (in nearly every line) mixed with a touch of poignancy here and there to keep it real. It is sometimes subtitled “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” and it features truly memorable characters, not the least of which is Lady Bracknell who, like a certain Dowager Duchess from Downton, gets all the best lines.
Earnest was first performed in 1895 and has lost none of it luster in the century or so since. Every line is a jewel, yet at its heart, Earnest is a satire sharp enough to cut social pretenses into tiny shreds. If you want to laugh until your face hurts, even as you are bound to recognize in these characters aspects of people you know, then don’t miss The Importance of Being Earnest (April 2, 2:00 pm., Middleburg Community Center).
Then we go from the sublimely satirical to one of Shakespeare’s most complex characters in The Life of King Henry V. It includes the famous soliloquy with its thrilling “we band of brothers” speech. Yes, it is a play about the famous Battle of Agincourt, but it also happens to include one of the sweetest and funniest romantic scenes Shakespeare ever wrote. It was written in 1599, nearly two centuries after the battle it depicts.
If you come to see Henry V, you can make your own determination as to whether this is a pro-war or anti-war play—critics have argued both ways over the centuries. What is not open to debate is that it is one of Shakespeare’s most vivid and moving plays. The performance is at 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 2, at the Middleburg Community Center.
One thing Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare have in common is that both had to start somewhere. They both picked up a pen (or quill) and put the first word down on paper (or parchment). To support aspiring playwrights of our own century, Shakespeare in the ‘Burg also features a one-act playwriting competition. More than 250 submissions from all over the world arrived in our Middleburg mailbox, with every playwright hoping his or her play would be the chosen one. Volunteer judges read the submissions and made hard choices. The winning play from the competition will be performed on Sunday, April 3, at noon, following a champagne brunch, at the Community Center. It will be a great way to close out the weekend.
Last year, the Community Center was filled to overflowing with playgoers. This year we are extending the stage to accommodate larger productions from the American Shakespeare Center, the internationally acclaimed theatre troupe that will be with us all weekend. Everyone attending the performances will have a good seat with a great view this year.
For more information, go to www.shakespeareintheburg.com to buy tickets and learn more about Shakespeare in the ‘Burg.