THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Returns to PM&L After Nearly 33 Years

When the PM&L Board of Directors chose the slate of shows for Season 60 it was long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us. The season was carefully chosen to celebrate PM&L’s past, present, and a look to the future. Now, with the pandemic having pushed the season back two years, it seems only fitting that Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest returns to the stage so shortly after the passing of two PM&L Hall of Fame Members, Aileen Biel and Tom Hausman, who were members of our last production in Season 29.

An ad for Season 29's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST from the Lakeland News.

Acting with PM&L Legends

Chris Heilgeist in her promotional portrait as Gwendolen for Season 29's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

We caught up with Chris Heilgeist, a long-time volunteer and member of many PM&L productions, about her memories from the production and being on stage with several legends of PM&L.

“The role of Gwendolyn came to me in my early 30s, and the play gave me the opportunity to work with a talented team filled with people that I cared about, whom I had worked with, and whom I admired,” Chris said.

Every show becomes a sort of family, and Chris confirms this was no exception for Season 29’s production of Earnest. In addition to new friendships with Richard Burkinshaw (Algernon) and Bridget Matayoshi (Miss Prism) she got to work with an Antioch Community High School student Kara Smith (Cecily), who starred in ACHS’ production of Grease.

Check out the program pages for 1990's production of EARNEST.

When doing a famous British play, it helps to have a former Brit in the cast! In this case, the late Aileen Biel was ready to help.

“In addition to creating a wonderful Bracknell portrayal, she also provided dialect coaching for the production as she had some familiarity with the British dialect!” Chris said. Aileen’s daughter, Jennifer Biel Franco, stars in our current production of Earnest, also as Lady Bracknell.

Alan Titus, a veteran of many area productions, played a “diabolical, yet lovable” Jack in the 1990 production, according to Chris. “I remember only one other actor at PM&L that talented who created moments like that and he (Stephen Phelan) played opposite me in Doubt.

Aileen Biel in her promotional portrait as Lady Bracknell for Season 29's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.
Alan Titus (right) played a "diabolical, yet lovable" Jack.

Don't Let it End

Whether performing or being a part of the crew, productions take a lot out of our volunteers. Many times, when that third weekend rolls around, you’re ready to wrap up the show! Not so in the case of Season 29’s Earnest as far as Chris is concerned. 

“I remember the cast as committed, talented, and fun-loving, and I hated to see this production come to an end.”

Our latest production of Earnest is just about to get started, though! Grab your tickets now for our latest production of this immortal Oscar Wilde comedy. Join us next week for another look back at our Season 29 production with its director, Mark Badtke.

4 thoughts on “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Returns to PM&L After Nearly 33 Years”

  1. Thank you for providing these stories of previous productions and members who were involved. Very interesting and brings back memories of former productions I have see.

    1. It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for a while and this show proved the perfect opportunity to get it done!

  2. The opening night production was impressively superb! My wife and I had never been to a PM&L performance but the intimacy of this theater, the wardrobe, and especially the acting made this evening a delight. Cheers to all who created this. We will be attending future programs with enthusiastic anticipation!

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