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Students Play with Satire In Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan

Students Play with Satire In Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan

Students Play with Satire In Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan


Chris Mitchell ’24 and Addie Cirulis '25 in a tense scene.


February 16, 2023

Characters gossiping in 19th-century underwear? A cocktail party on stage? The Winter HDA production, Lady Windermere’s Fan, engaged audience members with its comedic adaptation of the four-act Oscar Wilde play.

From February 10 to 12, student performers put on a two-hour show in Walker Auditorium. Directed by Mr. Parker Reed, head of theatrical performance, and Ms. Steavie Reed, acting coach and Summer Portals instructor, Lady Windermere’s Fan is a 1892 satire by Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. Like many of Wilde’s plays, it exposes the superficial morays of elite society.

In the story, Lady Windermere (Addie Cirulis ’25) hears from the Duchess of Berwick (Anji Ashaye ’24) about the possibility that her husband is having an affir. To prove his innocence, Lord Windermere (Chris Mitchell ’24) invites his alleged mistress, Mrs. Erlynn (Armani Frazier ’24) to Lady Windermere’s birthday party and drama ensues. At the crux of the play lies a critique of what constitutes “good” and “bad” womanhood.

HDA chose Lady Windermere’s Fan for this season’s production as a continuation of the themes explored in other productions of the season — Into the Woods and She Kills Monsters — which all explore the consequences of telling stories. Mr. Reed said, “After our focus on movement and rapid dialogue in Clue last year, we thought our students would benefit from storytelling through more sophisticated language in Lady Windermere’s Fan.”

One design of the show, unseen in recent productions, was the confiscation of all audience members’ phones before they entered the auditorium. By eliminating a major source of distraction, HDA created a performance space that received full audience engagement. However, this procedure sparked controversy within students. “I didn’t really understand the purpose behind taking away our phones, because even if we had our phones it’s not like we would use them, since we were with our friends. But I think it was a good experiment that reminded me to live in the present,” Ella Yu ’24 said.

Another significant change was the improvisational element incorporated into the performance. Before the start of the show, Carla Oudin ’26, who played Poppy the maid, asked members of the audience to participate in the party scene by assigning them fictional character names.

Half an hour into the show, Oudin called out each name and the selected audience members joined performers onstage. “Everyone seemed really excited for something interactive, because they were all willing to come up on stage. Some people even started talking to me in British accents. I think having a new mainstage production raised everyone’s spirits.” Oudin said.

For student performers, the complex dialog in and comedic timing requred by Lady Windermere’s Fan posed an acting challenge. “I’ve never been a part of a play that intertwined such comedy and depth so effortlessly. As an actress, I loved the challenge of making the audience laugh when it was appropriate and making them really think,” Frazier said.

Angela Li is an editor-in-chief of The Record.

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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