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Two plays examine Victorian-era way of life

By: Eileen Wilson Telegraph Correspondent
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When hilarity meets history, an evening of fun and adventure ensues. T.H.E. Actors Workshop and Integral Theatre Company will present two one-act plays, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Victoria at 18” beginning Thursday, May 5. “Earnest,” a perennial favorite and Oscar Wilde’s most well known work, has been adapted for performance in a tidy single act. Selecting scripts is always a challenge for Executive Director Deanne Eldridge, who has directed for the Folsom stage for 10 years and has been involved in theater for three decades. “There are too many good scripts that I want to do — the list is very long,” she said. But Eldridge has picked two winners that are perfectly suited to her cast. “I chose the ‘Victoria’ script specifically for one of my high school students, Taelen Robertson. Taelen looks like Queen Victoria when she was that age, and Taelen also has a passionate interest in the Victorian time period. She’s an avid reader and has volumes and volumes about Queen Victoria — she’s a real wealth of knowledge,” Eldridge said. Eldridge selected “Earnest,” perhaps, because of its wide appeal and the fact that the show is uproariously funny. “The Importance of Being Earnest,” written in the late 1800s, is an English farce that trivializes Victorian life, utilizing brilliant dialog. The show includes mistaken identities, commentary on the irony of aristocratic social life, and frivolous romance — something to please everyone. Of course, romance, in Victorian times may have been a bit different than modern youngsters would expect. “An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be,” advises Lady Bracknell in the play’s first act. “Victoria at 18” is an historical drama about the day the princess turns 18, which, as history tells us, is the same day she suddenly and unexpectedly becomes the Queen of England. The play, written by Tim Kelly in 1978, describes the clash of wills between Victoria and her controlling mother, the Duchess of Kent — much of the dialog is taken directly from the Queen’s personal diaries. “Every character in the play is a real historical figure,” Eldridge said. “Everything that happens has been taken from her own diaries, or is from historical documents.” A teacher herself, Eldridge saw the play as a perfect vehicle to teach a piece of history that most people know very little about. “I’m an avid student of history,” she said. Robertson is an avid student of history as well. “I found Victoria fascinating — I’ve done a lot of research and studied her life as much as I could,” she said. “A lot of work has gone in to the study of Victoria and her family background. Everyone in the cast can tell you something about the historic character they play.” The group, who performs in a donated venue at 800 Reading St. in Folsom, hopes to raise funds to secure their own stage by the end of this year. The remainder of the 2011 season includes: "Treasure Island," based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson in July, "Emma," based on the book by Jane Austen in September and October, and "A Peanuts’ Christmas" in November and December. * * * KNOW AND GO What: “Victoria at 18,” “The Importance of Being Earnest” When: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5; continues 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through May 29 Where: 800 Reading St., Folsom Cost: $14 general, $12 seniors and students, $7 children under 12 Info: actorsworkshop.net