A preview of this fall’s play, Pride and Prejudice
The house lights won’t just go down on the opening night of Pride and Prejudice. The pages of a timeless story will open too as its characters are brought to life.
After searching through several adaptations of the story, Director Chrissy Steele finally decided on Jon Jory’s version of Jane Austen’s classic. This romantic comedy takes place in 1813 and follows the complex relationship between Elizabeth Bennet (played by senior Madison Flannery) and Mr. Darcy (junior Alden Williams). The cast, crew, and many others have been working hard to bring this show to life since early September.
Woven throughout all aspects of the show is a pop-up book/graphic novel theme. This is most evident in the Black Box, which has been made to look like a pop-up book. Leah McFall, the Costume and Set Designer said, “The set is abstract in design.”
The enormity of the set has been one of the most fun yet challenging parts of this show. Megan Lovegren, the Technical Director said, “Its size has made it the most time-consuming part of tech work.” Twenty-four students and carpenter Tom Halsey have worked tirelessly to create a set they hope the audience won’t soon forget.
However, this isn’t the only ambitious portion of the play. There are eight scenes that include dancing. Junior Courtney Puduski (the show’s choreographer) and the Dance Composition class have both created dance pieces for Pride and Prejudice. Puduski says that the most challenging yet enjoyable part of her job has been working with non-dancers. She’s loved witnessing their progress in both skill and confidence.
To support this focus on movement, the cast had a rehearsal session with Richard Morse, a movement teacher and actor who is an expert at miming. This session focused on movement in regards to the early 19th century. Dawn Arnold, a Chicago theatre teacher, also taught two sessions about incorporating Michael Chekhov’s technique into the acting work.
This acting technique is very similar to reading a book, Director Chrissy Steele pointed out. Narration will be used instead of blackouts between scenes . This “Shakespearian style” allows actors to “jump in with their imaginations,” said Steele.
Because the show’s current format is very conducive to cast ideas, the actors have been able to learn first-hand from their contributions and experiences. Williams has enjoyed “learning the dances and exploring the complexities in the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.” Flannery feels grateful to play a character who is “fire in a world of water – who goes against conventions, is intelligent, witty, and cares fiercely.” Both actors have learned to be flexible and focused, especially with limited rehearsal time. They hope that audiences take time to reflect on how Pride and Prejudice’s title and story might apply to their lives.
Reflections like these mirror the overarching vision that Steele has for the show. The cast has been discussing one main line during rehearsals: “Till this moment I never knew myself.” This line speaks to the many transformations of perspective that the main characters experience as they relinquish preconceived notions. Actors have been exploring what this moment is for both themselves and their characters. Within this academic theatre setting, Steele emphasizes the importance of personal growth.
Steele sees this character development as a central part of the audience’s experience. She said, “People come to the theatre to be changed.” She hopes that the play’s themes will urge the audience to address their own pride and prejudice.
With all of these perspectives and sources of support, it is clear that this show is a huge “collaboration,” as Steele described it. Audiences can look forward to deep messages, a unique set, and the opportunity to understand their own stories a little better.
Pride and Prejudice will be performed November 17-19 at 7:30pm and November 19th at 2pm in the Black Box. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students.