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North Central College student directing 'Importance of Being Earnest'

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You could say that North Central College senior Carlee Beth Fields is wild about Wilde.

She will direct Oscar Wilde's 19th century comedy "The Importance of Being Earnest" this week as part of North Central's Student Director Series as well as part of her honors thesis.

"'Earnest' has been my favorite show since I first read it when I was 15. I've always adored the verbal jousting and the quick wit of the show, and even in the rehearsal process I find new things I love about it," said Fields, a theater and Spanish major. "I decided to update it while on a binge of watching 'Gilmore Girls,' and I noticed how incredibly similar the writing styles of … Amy Sherman Palladino and playwright Oscar Wilde are."

So Fields decided to explore how Wilde's main characters would fit in modern-day New England.

"When you're the director, you get to make those fun choices, and just go for it," she said. "This has been an incredible experience for me."

Along for the ride are nine cast and six crew members — all students — and all game for some farcical fun.

"A big challenge with this show is the language — Oscar Wilde is so prolific, but he's incredibly hard to get just right," Fields said.

It's a comedy with plenty of depth.

"There is a critique of gender roles that I really wanted to bring out. There's a few satirical lines about how 'men are infinitely beyond us (women)' and I wanted to really pull out the critique in that notion," she said.

Lessons from the classic material is one thing; lessons from the real-life directing experience is another.

"I've been learning a lot about myself throughout the process, and have found that I really do love directing — it's such a unique opportunity to create a little family," she said. "Because it is totally up to the director to set the tone for the process, I wanted to make sure that everyone felt as comfortable and excited as possible. After all, if you aren't having fun and enjoying the process, why on earth would we all be here?"

Fields is also pulling double-duty as the show's costume designer. As part of her honor thesis, she is researching costume design's effects on character development in the rehearsal process.

"What this means for my actors is a small interview after rehearsals, either through email, journaling or a group discussion, and we find what helps and what hurts when it comes to rehearsal wear," Fields said. "I'll be presenting this research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research later this spring."

"The Importance of Being Earnest" will take the stage 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13, Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 at Meiley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth St., in Naperville, on the North Central College campus. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. For tickets, call 630-637-7469.

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