During rehearsals for ''Hedda Gabler'' last winter, director Daniel-Raymond Nadon and James Canacci, who was part of the cast, were talking about shows Kent State University at Trumbull Theater could do in the future.
Canacci suggested Oscar Wilde's ''The Importance of Being Earnest,'' which he called, ''My favorite show of all time. I think it's been my favorite show since I've been in high school.''
At the time, he imagined playing one of the duplicitious lead characters. Instead, with Nadon directing ''The Rocky Horror Show'' on the main campus this fall, Canacci was asked to direct the comedy, which opens Friday for a two-weekend run.
Wilde's play involves two men both posing as the fictional Earnest Worthing. Earnest was invented by Jack Worthing as a ne'er-do-well younger brother who always is getting into trouble. Jack uses the fictional character's exploits as an excuse to leave the country for London, and he poses as the younger Worthing when he is in the city.
When Jack starts a relationship with the cousin of his best friend, Algernon, the friend decides to go to the country as Earnest in order to meet Jack's innocent young ward, Miss Cecily Cardew. And, of course, the false names and mistaken identities provide plenty of complications for both couples.
''Earnest'' is Wilde's most enduring work, staged on Broadway nine times dating back to 1895.
When You Go
WHAT: ''The Importance of Being Earnest''
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Oct. 19-20 and 3 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 21
WHERE: Kent State University at Trumbull Theater, 4314 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Champion.
HOW MUCH: $10 adults, $8 students and senior citizens and $6 children ages 11 and younger. For reservations or more information, call 330-675-8833.
''He (Wilde) looked at farce in the Victorian period, which no one took seriously, no one gave any credit to or esteemed any of the writers or actors involved in it,'' Canacci said. ''It would be like reality television today ... He took everything from farce and said, 'I can do it better and sell it to a high-class audience in an exquisite way and they will love it.' And he was right.''
''I think this is the perfect farce. There are no weak points, no extraneous characters.''
The late 19th Century setting makes it a challenge for the actors, but the opportunity to be a part of the beloved comedy attracted a lot of veteran performers.
''I'm fortunate so many talented [people in this area were willing to give the play and me a chance,'' Canacci said.
The cast features Matthew DeBattiste, Dylan White, Kate Starling, Hannah Gillespie, Terri A. Wilkes, Susan MonteCalvo, Tom Schaffer, Evan Graham, and Gabriel Cole.
And Canacci said he doesn't regret not getting to be one of the actors on stage.
''If you're in the play, you only get to be one character,'' Canacci said. ''If I cast you as Jack, you only get to be Jack. If you're the director, to a certain extent at least in the rehearsals, you get to be a little bit of everybody, at least as far as explaining the idea. I'd never get to be Lady Bracknell on stage, but I can be her in rehearsal as the director.''