New Play with an Enduring Picture: Wilde’s Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray, an upcoming premiere of a new adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, has special meaning for writer Domenick Scudera, Professor of Theater at Ursinus College, and the cast and crew.

dorienUrsinus President Bobby Fong, who died unexpectedly Sept. 8, was an internationally known scholar of Oscar Wilde and the editor of Poems and Poems in Prose, volume one in the Oxford English Texts edition of the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Initially, Scudera chose to work on an Oscar Wilde piece to help share Dr. Fong’s passion for the author with students and audiences. “It seemed appropriate that the theater department should contribute a Wilde play at some point in his tenure as President,” says Scudera.

“With his untimely passing, now the project has become a way to honor him and his scholarship, a way for the company to share their respects in a stage production of an Oscar Wilde classic,” he says.

The enduring Dorian Gray story is about an attractive but corrupt man and the portrait that reveals his secrets. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1, 2 3 and 4 in the Lenfest Theater in the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $5 general admission; $2 students and senior citizens. Reservations can be made at www.ursinus.edu/tickets or through the Box Office, or call 610-409-3030.  For this production, Ursinus is teaming with the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation for its Dinner and a Show event. Audiences can take advantage of restaurant specials at some 15 local restaurants. More information and Dinner and a Show can be found here and reservations can be made at www.collegevilledevelopment.org

Scudera said he read through Wilde’s plays with an eye toward producing one, but decided instead to adapt The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde’s only novel, into a play. He looked into other adaptations and found them unsatisfactory. “Other adapters freely altered the story to suit their interests, but I wanted to stick as closely to Wilde’s original as possible,” he says.

He explains that there are three source materials to work from: Wilde’s original, unaltered version;  the edited 13-chapter version that appeared in Lippincott’s monthly magazine in 1890; and the 20-chapter book version that appeared in 1891 — a version that allowed Wilde to remove objectionable sections from the 1890 edition and to expand other sections of the narrative. He used all three versions to adapt the script, and shaped it also during the rehearsals with cast input. He believes it is a “fast-paced, entertaining, and suspenseful production.” Adding to the production are scenic designer Lauren Mills, lighting designer David Todaro and costume designer Brian Strachan.

Although the “Dorian Gray” company is saddened that Bobby Fong will not be in the audience, “we feel a renewed energy to rehearse and perform the show with the same passion that he had had for this work.”