Joe Staton

Though he has mainly made his career by playing Shakespearean characters, actor and producer Joe Staton is stepping into new theatrical territory with his latest role as Jack Worthing in a production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Staton, known for his roles in Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, now embraces the wit and satire of Wilde’s classic comedy. This role holds special significance for Staton, as Wilde ranks among his favorite playwrights, and the opportunity to bring the charming and complex Jack Worthing to life has him brimming with enthusiasm. We sat down with Joe to discuss his new venture, his thoughts on Wilde, and the intricacies of shifting from the Bard to the sparkling dialogue of Victorian farce.

Joe, you’ve built an impressive career with your performances in Shakespearean plays. What drew you to “The Importance of Being Earnest” and the role of Jack Worthing?

When I was in school, I already knew that I was going to go into acting, and therefore I chose classes based on that. One of those classes was English Literature, as I knew that we’d be reading classic plays. One such play was An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, and I absolutely loved it. I loved the wit and humour that Wilde displayed in his characters. As part of the course, our teacher decided to show us the Colin Firth and Rupert Everett film version of The Importance of Being Earnest to educate us further about Wilde’s intentions as a playwright, and I was even further drawn in. Even back then, I knew that Jack would probably be the character I would hope to one day play. He’s awkward, I’m awkward. He’s charming, I have known to turn on the charm now and then. I wouldn’t say particularly, however, that I was drawn to Earnest specifically but that I was more drawn to Wilde. I love his work, and though Earnest is a great play, it is done a great deal, and now that I get to add it to my resume, I hope that that will follow with more of Wilde’s plays such as An Ideal Husband or A Woman of No Importance. We shall see!

Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare have very different styles. How do you anticipate your preparation and performance will differ for Wilde’s work compared to Shakespeare’s?

Well, they do and they don’t, I would argue. I’m no scholar, but Wilde and Shakespeare I actually think have some things in common, especially in terms of comedy and the fact that a lot of the humour is in the language. Yes, Shakespeare is written in a more archaic style that often involves iambic pentameter, whereas Wilde is somewhat more contemporary, however, their themes and comedic styles are similar – especially when it comes to Mistaken Identity. I don’t think that aspect will be too different. However, I do hope to stay true to Wilde’s intentions with this production. Shakespeare would often have lower-class characters portray the comic relief, whereas Wilde was most certainly (and often subtly) poking fun at the upper classes and their eccentricities, and I look forward to exploring that more.

Exclusive Interview with Actor and Producer, Joe Staton

Jack Worthing is known for his wit and charm. What aspects of his character are you most looking forward to exploring?

His wit and charm.

Are there any specific moments or lines in “The Importance of Being Earnest” that you are particularly excited to perform?

I mean, the handbag scene is just iconic. I love that scene, it’s wonderfully written. The admittance that I was found in a handbag – it’s just classic. And the final line, for certain.

Wilde’s comedy often relies heavily on timing and delivery. How are you planning to approach the humor in his writing to ensure it comes across effectively on stage?

Well, I’m excited to hear the director’s thoughts on this, but I think that the timing and rhythm of Wilde’s words are so important. I want to make sure I understand exactly what Wilde was trying to convey and be true to how he intended, as much as I possibly can.

As someone who deeply admires Wilde, what do you think makes his plays, especially “The Importance of Being Earnest,” resonate with audiences even today?

I think that people enjoy wit, and Wilde’s wit is timeless. And especially in this day and age where, for example, back in England we still very much have a class structure – a King who in the past has suggested using vintage red wine to replace petrol and a now former prime minister who is richer than that King – that I think people still appreciate the subtle mockery of these characteristics. And comedy such as mistaken identity is still extremely funny today if done well. Of course, this production will be for an American audience so I’ll be interested to see what people take away from this.

You’ve worked both as an actor and a producer. How does your experience as a producer influence your approach to a role, and did it play any part in your decision to take on this role?

Though I sometimes combine my roles as a producer and actor, in this particular production I am appearing solely as an actor. I may struggle to take my producer hat off during the process, however, I think it’s important to understand one’s role when doing a project. I am not the producer of this project and therefore I will not try to be.

Joe Staton

Finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from this upcoming production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”? Are there any particular themes or messages you are eager to highlight?

I hope people walk away enthusiastic about going to see plays by Oscar Wilde! He is such an iconic playwright who has brought joy to myself and millions since his time, and there’s a reason for that. I’m honoured to be performing his work.

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