“A Handbag?!!” Notes on “Being Earnest”

Jun 4, 2017

Editor’s note: We are seduced every time by Oscar Wilde’s wit and cutting dialogue, as our well-thumbed copy of The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde will attest.

Parson’s Nose Theater presents a reading of  The Importance of Being Earnest on June 10 and 11.

Thanks to Parson’s Nose co-founder Lance Davis, we shall let the professionals do the “talking.”

Oscar Wilde was a glorious comet across the literary night sky of Victorian England. His parents were Anglo-Irish, but his mother wrote fiercely pro – Irish poetry (“The Famine Year“) He was highly-educated and moved easily, wittily and flamboyantly through London society.  He was a champion of the “Aesthetic Movement“, a reaction to the Utilitarianism of the Industrial Age, and best summarized in the motto “Art for Art’s Sake.” Beauty is its own reason for being, and needs not be tied to moral or socio-political themes.


Oscar Wilde at the beginning of his American tour, 1882


After Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Woman of No Importance, Wilde hit his comedic stride with The Importance of Being Earnest. Unfortunately, his triumph coincided with a scandal that took London by storm—the accusation by Lord Douglas, the Marquess of Queensbury,  of Wilde’s alleged seduction of Douglas’ twenty one year old son.

The opening night audience of Earnest in 1895 was a “who’s who” of the upper class and literati, yet, unfortunately, it marked the zenith of his illustrious rise. Although Lord Douglas, who threatened to assault the playwright with rotten vegetables, was turned away, the scandal grew over the following weeks. Society was embarrassed. Wilde’s  best play would close after 86 performances; he would be dragged through a humiliating trial for his homosexuality, sent to prison (“The Ballad of Reading Gaol“), and die penniless in Paris within five years, at the age of forty-six. He is buried at Pere Lachaise.




There are many ways to explore Earnest. Beneath the razor wit, a “piece a clef” about secret relationships and double lives. An attack on the excesses of gentility. A full out exposé of prevailing thought on fashion, marriage, and aristocracy.

~”Fashion is gentility running away from vulgarity and afraid of being overtaken by it. It is a sign that the two are not very far apart.”—William Hazlitt

~”Ideas travel upward; manners downward.”—Bulwer-Lytton

~’Snobbery’ has been defined as a defensive expression of social insecurity. Not to be confused with a ‘snob victim,’ such a Monsieur Jourdain in Molière’s The Middle Class Aristocrat or Hyacinth Bucket (‘pronounced Bouquet’) in Keeping Up Appearances—victims of never-to-be-realized social respectability.

The idea, however, of allowing a marriage between the bloodlines of Gwendolyn Fairfax and someone born in a handbag would trigger cardiac arrest in Lady Bracknell’s society.

The Importance of Being Earnest is the work of an Irish rebel, a verbal swashbuckler battling Church, Society, Fashion, Elitism and Morality with the best de Bergerac panache. Join us.
Lance Davis, Parson’s Nose Theater


Lance Davis


This reading of The Importance of Being Earnest is a free event, but because of space limitations, reservations must be made online or by calling 1.626.403.7667.

And, though the event is free, “Pay What You Will” donations will be welcome.

To reserve online, click “Reserve Tickets” (see below) and select the date desired. Follow the process as though buying tickets, but the price will be $0. Finish the order and receive confirmation—and Parson’s Nose will receive your reservation.

The cast includes: Lance Davis, Mary Chalon, James Calvert, Marisa Chandler, Laurine Price, Tiffany Owens, and Barry Gordon.

Running time: 90 minutes + a brief intermission for refreshments

The Importance of Being Earnest readings:
Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 11 at 2 p.m.
Reserve your free seat online here
For complete info, visit

Parson’s Nose Theater, 95 N. Marengo Ave., Set. 110 (at Holly St.), Pasadena 91101. Ph: 1.626.403.7667.


Photo source: Parson’s Nose Theater.


Photo source: Parson’s Nose Theater.


Photo source: Parson’s Nose Theater.



Where does the name Parson’s Nose Theater come from?

“Sometimes comes she with a tithe pig’s tail 
Tickling a parson’s nose as he lies asleep 
And then dreams he of another benefice (donation?).”
– Mercutio, Queen Mab speech, Romeo and Juliet



2 Responses for ““A Handbag?!!” Notes on “Being Earnest””

  1. Lance Davis says:

    Can’t thank you enough for your kind promotion of our work. And your added photos were terrific!

  2. Kat Ward says:

    Our pleasure, Lance! All the best for continued success of Parson’s Nose!



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