Organization History

Actor and writer Robert Coyle founded The Oscar Wilde Project in 1992, to develop a new one - man show about the writer and wit Oscar Wilde.

The Oscar Wilde Project is a not-for-profit organization.

It was funded during FYR 96, in part, through a major grant from the Iowa Humanities Board; and other private, corporate and public entities. Current sponsorship has been received from The Playboy Foundation, Hewlett - Packard, University Book and Supply, Cedar Falls and private individuals.

Oscar Wilde: An Introduction --
1995 marks the centenary of Oscar Wilde's trial and descent from the pinnacle of London society. Born in Dublin in 1854, Oscar Wilde became one of the true masters of the English language. His name is synonymous with witty dialogue and aphorisms. Almost alone among his peers, his work is still in print, still read, and still enjoyed 100 years later. His plays,including The Importance of Being Earnest, are still frequently produced. His novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, about one man's pact with the devil to maintain eternal youth, is still in print and widely read.

The One-Man Play --
Oscar Wilde: An Evening Alone was developed in 1995 through a series of work - in - progress performances in Cedar Falls and Mason City. The play explores Oscar Wilde the man, and his work, revealing the humanity of both. Mixing dialogue with selected excerpts from the work and wit of Oscar Wilde, the play brings forth the soul of the man. It explores the creativity and characters that epitomize the work and the man-- Oscar Wilde; placing him in the context of the universality of human experience.

This production is a professional, Equity, touring production to reach audiences not already served. The play has been taped for broadcast in 1996 on Cedar Falls Cable Television.

Why-- Oscar Wilde: An Evening Alone?
Richard Ellmann writes in his biography, Oscar Wilde , "he was proposing that good and evil are not what they seem, that moral tabs cannot cope with the complexity of behavior." Wilde was a satirist whose wit, commentary, and caricature challenged society. Ultimately, Wilde was put on trial for immoral acts, but in reality, his literary work was put on trial. The view of London's Establishment was that his work was corrupted and immoral. Oscar Wilde and the social system which consumed him could come out of the pages of today's news. Current discussions about the role and influence of art find a mirror in Oscar Wilde, it is almost too close to our own world, rather than of 100 years ago. Human nature unites us with our own time and ties us to the fallibility and foibles of our forbearers. This is why Oscar Wilde is so apropos for examination.

The past, like art, serves to hold a mirror through which we might more closely examine ourselves. Oscar Wilde, writer, and historical character, affords us a model example. He is both the epitome of his time and one who transcends time, Oscar Wilde is relevant and contemporary today. He is with us today in both his writings and the actions of his life, he is contemporary.

For information contact:

The Oscar Wilde Project
303 Olive Street
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-2205
TEL: (319) 277-1230
FAX: (319) 277-3984

What the Critics say -

Oscar Wilde:
An Evening Alone

The creative process was laid bare for the metro community via "Oscar Wilde: an Evening Alone", a rich and provocative one-man show shared last spring by Equity actor Robert Coyle.

Indeed, the creative process was not only laid bare, it was shared. Coyle's extraordinarily generous act was to invite the community to participate in a play's generation. And participate the community did.

What interests me most as a newspaper drama reviewer of 22 years is the great success of Coyle's experiment. Community members seemed pleased to participate in a drama-in-the-making. They stayed after the first performances in March, shared their responses with Mr. Coyle, and returned in May to see what he had made of them.

And he had made much.

To begin with, Bob Coyle looks like Oscar Wilde. He is irish to boot, and has worked in the Irish theatre. The 100th anniversary of "The importance of Being Ernest." Wilde's brilliant comedy, is being celebrated in 1995, and Coyle had the inspired notion that Wilde's controversial life and work might give Iowans historical perspective on issues which seemingly never fade.

I am referring to what art is acceptable for public consumption (and taxpayer funding) and what should be society's response to the love that has no name."

Coyle's "Oscar Wilde: An Evening alone" helps us see the situation contextually - always an important thing to do - indeed, as a matter of complexity and conflict for the artist as well as for society. Coyle gives us no pat answers. He wishes to stimulate our thinking instead. He shows us Wilde brooding over whether the artist "kills the thing he loves." But what ultimately came through for me was the need for the truths of the human heart to be told.

At the same time we lament that society make truth telling so difficult.

Robert Coyle is a fine actor. His opening recreation of the beloved "Earnest" is tour de force comic delight making us think that Lady Bracknell is perhaps best portrayed by a man. After this witty opening, however, we see the Wilde of the poems (as well as of the epigrams), the tortured Wilde as well as the Wilde triumphant.

The Iowa Humanities Board and the Hearst Center for the Arts should be saluted for allowing metro theatre goers to participate in such important dialogue - as well as in the creative process. Sharing our ideas with Robert Coyle gave us a sense of the many choices involved in creating a work of art - and how challenging truth-telling can be.

Barbara Lounsberry
Professor of English
Drama Reviewer
Waterloo Courier
* Reprinted by permission

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