‘An Ideal Husband’ Marks Final Theatre Performance for BYU Fall Season

Director Andrea Gunoe presents a fresh take on the Oscar Wilde classic

Livestreamed Performances:

  • December 3, 7:30 p.m.
  • December 4, 7:30 p.m.
  • December 5, 7:30 p.m.

For the final theatre performance of the fall season, the BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts has chosen the classic comedy “An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde. Written in 1893, the story addresses themes of politics, marriage and masculinity. 

Director Andrea Gunoe is currently a PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She explained why this play felt like the right choice for 2020.

“The department really wanted to do a comedy to brighten up this year that has been so difficult for so many. ‘An Ideal Husband’ is so funny and witty in that unique Oscar Wilde way, but it also has important social commentary that feels very current,” she said. “It asks questions about what it means to perform a sense of perfection for the world, versus actually living a virtuous life.”

Dramaturg Charisse Baxter agreed that the themes are especially on point for our modern world. “‘An Ideal Husband’ is all about the perceptions and pressures of society, about maintaining a certain status and meeting expectations others have for you,” she said. 

“This 125-year-old play is a remarkably good fit for many of the challenges we face, from peer pressure to social media addiction to figuring out what’s real and what’s not,” Baxter said. “The fact that it works really well over Zoom made it ideal for a quarantined show.”

Gunoe hoped to produce the show in a way that worked well with, not in spite of, remote rehearsals and an online streaming format. 

“We took those themes of private vs. public life and applied them to today, questioning how we represent ourselves online,” she said. “We updated the play by setting it in modern London. We put some of the scenes in a Zoom-like setting, but we kept most of the original language. Then we added some social media elements to highlight the themes.”

As with other theatre productions this semester, all rehearsals and meetings have been held over Zoom. 

“The cast have set up lights, green screen and webcams in their own homes with costumes, props and gear mailed to them or picked up contact-free,” Gunoe said. “It is a very strange way to do theatre, and we are all experiencing this for the first time.”

“Theatre is all about adaptation and making sure the show goes on,” Baxter said. “This pandemic means that performing presents new creative and logistical challenges.”

Gunoe echoed the idea of the need for flexibility. 

“You have to be open to the unknown and have patience. I learned about how much connection you can have with people from afar,” she said. “Many of us live most of our professional and personal lives online now, but our interactions online are still very much real. I see my teammates going out of their way to keep others safe by sacrificing some of the fun of being in person and still managing to be creative and open.”