During a rehearsal for an upcoming student production of The Importance of Being Ernest, one of the actors stops to ask director Derek Kwan if she is playing a man or a woman playing a man.
“They’re both justifiable approaches,” says Kwan, who serves as LGBTOUT’s university affairs coordinator. “But ultimately I think it’s irrelevant. It’s more about the character’s personality then the gender archetype.”
The response is typical of Kwan’s approach to this Oscar Wilde classic, a madcap country romp that has much to do with gender bending and gender neutrality. He also hopes it helps the production, which runs from today until Saturday, continue to create a queer positive space on campus.
“We want people to come away with questions, and create a room for discourse. By breaking down stereotypes in the play, we can open things up for discussion,” he said.
There’s also a musical aspect to the production, which comes naturally to Kwan, who is a music and semiotics student.
There is a music number before every act, which he describes as “very schmaltzy and melodramatic.”
Kwan, who is also the play’s only male actor, says the music is just one part of the overall playfulness of his production. But it’s a constructive playfulness.
“(Theatre) is about suspension of belief. It presents the perfect forum for play with the audience. We have a radio on-stage, so it would seem that the audience is listening to it, but the characters interact with it too. It acts as a conduit linking the real and the imaginary.”
There will be a special broadcast on CIUT on Nov. 14, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., presented by LGBTOUT. They will read excerpts from the play and discuss issues raised by the piece.