Having been rehearsing since Apr. 2, the Oregon Center for the Arts (OCA) at SOU closed their performance of A Man of No Importance on May 20 after a two week run. A Man of No Importance, based off of the 1994 film of the same name, was written by Terrence McNally with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. The production was directed and choreographed by Valerie Rachelle.
“I grew up gay and Catholic,” Carlos-Zenen Trujillo, who played Alfie Byrne, explained during the show’s talk back. “Thinking back on that entire experience, it really helped me get into the character of Alfie. I felt like I was reliving my past.” In the play, Alfie Byrne is a closeted gay, Catholic man in 1964 Dublin, Ireland.
The story of this play was greatly influenced by the real life adversities of Irish writer Oscar Wilde who was imprisoned for homosexuality. Wilde, who is also an important character within the play, acts as a spiritual guide for Alfie. He encourages Alfie to express his true feelings, and while that does backfire for Alfie, it is a major key to the story.
Trujillo described being in the show as “A life changing experience, and looked at the show as a way of “…challenging the audience: let’s find a way to do better.” He said, “I’m a different person on closing night than I was when I started rehearsals.”
To get in character, the actors pulled from their personal experiences. Cameron Davis played Father…he grew up Catholic, “So I just thought about the priest I had and what it meant for Father to keep the community intact.” Katie Bullock (Adele Rice), and Riley Bova (Ernie Lally), decided to go to a Catholic church for the first time in their lives to study the culture since the religion is such a substantial part of the play.
The cast spoke in Irish accents, so to prep technically for their roles, actors went through dialect training. Shelby Fredricks (Miss Crowe) admitted, “Once you learn the accent it’s so hard not to speak it. In fact, we were encouraged to speak in it a lot so we could perfect it.”
As a whole the cast found a community in one another which mirrored the St. Imelda’s players within the show. “I think that this play is so rooted in the heart and rooted in love, community, and family, and that’s something that the world doesn’t have a lot of right now” explained Gracie Jurczyk, who played Lily Byrne.
Fredricks agreed. “It doesn’t matter what Alfie’s done, and it doesn’t matter who he is and what his preferences are,” she said. “The other characters all still love him, and I think that means a lot. There’s a lot of people who don’t think that way.”
Trujillo highlighted, “We’re here to challenge our audience. Everything that Alfie went through didn’t have to happen. If this situation happened in real life, we want to let the audience know you could’ve handled it better, but let’s figure it out together.”
Although the show has closed, “Dear Brutus” opened last night and will run until June 3.