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The Big Bear Theatre Project – The Importance of Being Earnest


The Importance of Being Earnest – A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is one of Oscar Wilde’s most loved plays. Set just before the turn of the 20th century, it depicts two upper crust bachelors, opposites of character but both seeking distraction from anything mundane or banal and doing so in unconventional ways.

John Worthington and Algernon Moncrieff create alter egos as foils to dodge obligations and relatives but of course their ruses inevitably go wrong, particularly when each fall in love with women who insist their only true love must be named ‘Ernest’.

The Big Bear Theater Project production features professional actors predominantly from Los Angeles and one from New York, as well as a few locals people will recognize. As has become our tradition, we will include a Pay What You Like night, in this case our opening night on November 20, so no reason anyone should miss this madcap farce.


Brian Adams (Footman, Assistant to the Director) – Brian is a veteran of dozens of theatre roles and jobs, both on stage and behind the scenes. He has been the musical director for productions of Oliver!, Annie, Carousel, The Sound of Music, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He has portrayed Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Marcellus in The Music Man, and Nicely-Nicely in Guys and Dolls. He most recently played the role of Dr. Gibbs in Our Town. Brian is a founding member of The Big Bear Theatre Project and has been involved in every production of the organization. An educator for more than 30 years, Brian is the performing arts teacher at Big Bear High School. He lives in Big Bear with his wife of 35 years, Helen.

Cassandra Ybarra Babcock (Gwendolyn Fairfax)Growing up in an artistic community, Cassandra got her first taste of theater at Santa Cruz Montessori. Theater remained a huge part of her life with community theater and performing in school plays. She received her high school’s performing arts award in 2008. She decided to attend CSU Long Beach’s theater program specifically for the Showcase program (curated from the Yale School of Drama’s Cabaret Program) where the students create, design, direct, act and produce in 45 minute plays a week. She created 5 shows including her directing thesis project, Exhibit: Frida, based off the artistic life of Frida Kahlo. Her favorite college roles include: Hope (Almost, Maine), Rhonda Louise (Women of Manhattan), Lydia (Big Love) & Guido’s Mother (Nine). Cassandra graduated with a BA in Theater Arts (Emphasis in Performance & Directing). She has worked on various web-series, student films, commercials & would love to thank Mr. Frank Darabont for casting her in her first role on TNT’s Mob City. Cassandra loves the power of theater to be used as a tool to educate and give voices to important topics. Since 2014, Cassandra has had the great privilege of working with Pure Praxis, a social justice theater company dedicated to cultural change. Pure Praxis has reached thousands of people on training topics such as Sexual Assault Prevention, Workplace Harassment, Consent, Domestic Violence Awarness & many more topics. She is very excited to have the opportunity to bring Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax to life with Big Bear Theater Project. She would love to thank her educators for all of their invaluable training and her loved ones who believe in her every day. Besos.

Chelsea Boyd (Cecily Cardew) – Chelsea Boyd is an actor and writer from Los Angeles. She has acted in intimate theatre productions all across LA and is an Artistic Director for Brimmer Street Theatre Company. A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Chelsea is thrilled to be working with the Big Bear Theatre Project. Favorite roles include Jordan in the West Coast premiere of And Then They Fell by Tira Palmquist, Shaunta in Marcus or the Secret of Sweet, and Alene in Sonnets for an Old Century. Cecily Cardew in this production definitely makes the list as well! Thank you to the Big Bear Theatre Project for the opportunity to work with a wonderful cast and crew.

Steve Cassling (Rev. Canon Chasuble) – After studying Theatre Performance at Boston University, Steve joined the acting company of the prestigious Alley Theatre in Houston, appearing in over a dozen shows from Cyrano de Bergerac to The Sound of Music. He then moved to L.A. and worked in commercials and on television shows such as General Hospital, The Young & The Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Facts of Life, Murphy Brown, and Murder She Wrote, and films including the horror classics, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Re-Animator and sang on the soundtracks for X-Men 2 and Dudley Do-Right. He voiced Anime such as Giant Robo, Ghost in the Shell,Cowboy Bebop, Macross, Mobile Suit Gundam, Bleach, Guyver, and Love Hina. In Big Bear, Steve appeared in Carousel, A Christmas Carol, Guys and Dolls, Fandance, Camelot, Almost, Maine, It’s a Wonderful Life, The 39 Steps, Love LettersThe Last Five Years, Our Town, and Wait Until Dark. He brought Panto to Big Bear with his versions of Robin Hood, The Wizard of Oz, and Treasure Island, which had debuted at the Pasadena Playhouse, also Captain Hook’s Revenge and A Christmas Carol… Askew. He can be seen in numerous episodes of the web series Happy Hour Sketch Comedy and High. 

Matt Gardner (John Worthing) – Matt is thrilled to be returning for his second production with the Big Bear Theatre Project. He made his debut performance with the BBTP playing George in Our Town. Other credits include: The Idiot Box, Ivanov, Hamlet, Creation of the World (and Other Business), and Macbeth. Matt is a graduate of the BFA Acting program at California State University, Fullerton. As a proud company member of Pure Praxis, Matt performs for audiences worldwide utilizing the techniques from Theatre of the Oppressed to foster open-mindedness and affect social change. 

Michael Harrison (Lane) – Michael Harrison is an English teacher at Big Bear High School who has only performed once before, twenty years ago. He admires the real actors and has enjoyed the experience immensely.

Willie Leonard-Fortes (Algernon Moncrieff) – Willie studied acting at California State University, Fullerton’s competitive Bachelor of Fine Arts program. He has been active on the stage and screen for over a decade. In addition, to his leading roles on Los Angeles and Southern California stages, he has also performed in cities all over the United States as well as over 20 stages internationally. He is the Lead Actor and Actor Trainer for Pure Praxis and has had the fortunate pleasure of working with and supporting tens of thousands of U.S. Service members since 2014. Focusing performances on Sexual Assault Prevention for the United States Department of Navy has allowed him to work hand in hand with the Navy’s top authorities on the subject in the Pentagon. Willie continues to work fiercely, using entertainment as a means to educate and converse with communities on tough social issues. He would like to thank the Big Bear Theatre Project for the amazing opportunity to work on this classic play with such fantastic people. He would also like to thank his family for all their support over the years and his incredible friends who he constantly admires. They make him a better person. 

Nick Rocz (Lady Bracknell) – Nick Rocz is honored to be making his Big Bear Theater Project debut with this show! Nick has been involved with theater for almost 30 years! He started his journey with local theater in school productions and then moved to community theater in high school and professional theater following that. As a young man he moved around a lot so he was introduced to theaters in various states at a young age. He then was accepted and performed for many years with The Young Americans where he was able to teach and perform  musical theater all over the world with some incredible talent. After that, he received his B.F.A. at California State University, Fullerton for Acting where he did many shows and met many artists that are still in his life today. From there he went on to live in Los Angeles where he worked in television and theater. Following that, he then moved to New York City, where he lives today working with young artists and professionals on Broadway. Nick is a co-founder of Believe Performing Arts where he helped to create performing arts camps that allow kids all over the country to experience working with professionals in the industry. Nick is also a director and just finished the Mississippi premier of Matilda at Brookhaven Little Theater. He is so excited to be returning to the performing stage after 5 years. Past shows include: Guys and Dolls, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Songs for a New World, Romeo and Juliet, The Idiot Box, Rumors, The Music Man, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Hallelujah Girls, Assassins, and many others. He has also been featured in commercials for companies such as T-Mobile, Glasses.com, Nestea, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to name a few. Nick would like to thank his friends and family for their constant support in his journey of life. He is so excited to return to the stage with some of his closest and dearest friends whom he sees as family. For more information on how you can get Nick to come and work with you or your community visit Believecamp.com and message him. He is always ready for a new adventure and to work with other excited and passionate people of the arts!

Colin Schour (Merriman)Colin Schour is an English teacher at Big Bear High School, where he uses his acting skills to impersonate an intellectual proficient in the art of education. At times, he appears on stage to hone his craft, so as to better deceive his pupils.

Beth Wheat (Miss Prism, Director) – Beth grew up in and around theatre and studied under many talented coaches and directors as well as in college before shifting focus to pursue a career in IT. After moving to Big Bear, her passion for theatre was rekindled after seeing productions at the Performing Arts Center and wishing to share her love of theatre with her young sons. They all became involved with Big Bear’s Community Arts Theater Society where Beth served for many years as a board member, press secretary, grant writer, performer, and director. She is now proud to serve on the Board of Directors for The Big Bear Theatre Project and exhilarated to be part of its vision to bring quality theatrical productions to the Big Bear stage. Over the years she has performed in commercials and short films, created stage adaptations of familiar works, directed a number of plays including last summer’s Our Town for the Big Bear Theater Project, and has held a wide range of leading roles in a number of productions. She also works as a Vice President for Experian and is co-proprietor of Chirp Nature Centers with her husband Randy Putz. The Importance of Being Earnest is a “Wilde” experience, full of laughter, collaboration, and is a true joy to be a part of with the Theatre Project. She’s thrilled to share this play with you.

Christine Drew Benjamin (Co-Director) – Christine is a writer and creator who specializes in new play development, community centered events, and arts education. As a playwright, her current work includes Castles in the Air (The Big Bear Theatre Project, Untold Stories of Jewish Women) and Unruly Women (Stories of the Resistance). She has developed and presented scripts across the globe, including The Secret Seduction of Little Girls (John Woods Scholarship, Prague Summer Program for Writers), The Purity Play (FullStop Collective), and Carries On (Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s NTI’s Playwright’s Week). Directing credits include Element 109 (Untold Stories of Jewish Women), Turquoise and Cloves (Occupy the Empty Space), and Estrellas Verdes (Foreplays). Christine is a member of the board of the Coeurage Theatre Company. She studied Theatre Arts (B.A.) with an emphasis in playwriting and Women’s Studies (minor) at California State University, Fullerton. www.christinedrewbenjamin.com

Peter Mins (Costume Designer) – Peter is celebrating 53 years in show biz as actor and costume designer for theatre and television. While based in Hollywood and New York City, his work was seen on screens and stages from coast to coast, and has been the recipient and nominee of many awards in both fields. With a definite preference for musical theatre and the semi-classics, his life has been filled with beautiful music and beautiful words (to say nothing of colors, feathers, and petticoats). Some of his favorite shows to costume have been productions of CAMELOT, 1776, HELLO DOLLY, THE FANTASTICKS, I DO I DO, PEG O’ MY HEART, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (you may have heard of it), CAROUSEL, OLIVER, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, STOP THE WORLD, BRIGADOON, and many others. Peter considers seeing Broadway shows with big stars open and close on the same performance, as well as enjoying major productions in various parts of the world, an enviable and unforgettable education. He now resides in the Palm Springs area, still designing and learning lines.

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