Tag Archives: Danielle

Backstage Book Club

Well, it’s here: the final weekend of Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve seen the play, or even seen it many times, you’ve laughed and cried along with all of us as we’ve brought Jane Austen’s story to life. Those who have been waiting for closing weekend are in for a real treat! We have a very full cast as we’re welcoming Nick back for our final two shows. That means you should get ready to fight for front row seats because no one wants to miss being serenaded by our lovely crooners.

Speaking of a full cast, it’s a wonder we can all fit backstage! Here’s an exclusive peek at the backstage world of Pride and Prejudice:

First, we concentrate on what’s important for the show. We set props, get ready for our scene changes, check our posted schedule, and double-check with our scene-change partners. We listen for prompts and cue from Steven in the the sound and light booth via intercom. There are leisurely costume changes, extremely quick costume changes, and make-up and hair re-touching (the boys keep their hair slicked down with pomade, and claim to be Dapper Dan men). If we have a moment to spare we help zip each other into or out of dresses or make sure suit collars are nice and straight – everyone needs help with their costumes at some point!

Barry, Scott, Terry, and Nick rehearse one of many scene changes.

If we’re not immediately needed on- or off-stage, we take a moment in the theater’s tiny kitchen to sit down, listen (and laugh) at the sound feed, read, study, snack, chat or just breathe. When we’re all packed into that tiny space we sometimes start to get a bit silly, leading to such backstage events as:

San Leandro Glee Club: There’s lots of music in our show, and we all like to sing along. So it’s no surprise that when everyone kept getting Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” stuck in their heads, we gave in and started singing. Barry (Mr. Bingley) even suggested a mash-up: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody that I Used to Know!” Rachel and Taylor (Kitty and Lydia) have even been coming up with a “Kittya” rap!

Amateur Theatrics: We’ve done/seen the show so many times now that we all know each other’s scenes very well, especially the most memorable ones (Lady Catherine’s scenes are big hits with us). Sometimes we even act out over-the-top versions of our favorite lines, such as everything Lady Catherine says and, for some reason, every time Charlotte mentions lemonade. (Apparently there’s now a entire dance number around my lemonade line. Our glee club is going to have to have it’s own performance.)

Danielle Gray (Caroline Bingley), Sarah Asarnow (Charlottoe Lucas), and Julio Oyola (Mr. Collins).

Backstage Book Club: After Danielle (Caroline Bingley), Julio (Mr. Collins) and I (Charlotte) realized we’d be offstage for much of Act II, the Backstage Bookclub was born! Our book of choice was “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (perhaps a distant descendant?). Now that we’re done with the first book (and eagerly waiting to start the second) we plan to spend our last two meetings in discussion, just like any good book club!

This cast loves each other! Terry and Alex during one of our many after rehearsal excursions to The Englander.

Finally, we spend as much time as we can enjoying each other’s company. We’ve all become very close in the past few months working on our show, and it’s important to make the most *sniffle* of the last of our time together, backstage, putting on a play that makes us all unbelievably proud. I am so grateful to have been a part of this production, to have spent this time with such an incredible group of people. I know our last two shows are going to be the best we’ve ever done, and I am so excited to help make that happen. As long as I can get through that lemonade line, now that I know what’s going on backstage.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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Pay What You Can!

You heard correctly, folks! This weekend will be exceptionally exciting at the Casa Peralta Theatre in San Leandro because it’s Pay What You Can weekend for Pride and Prejudice. That means princes and paupers alike (and everyone else in between) can see the show and pay whatever they can for the price of admission. Everyone will be admitted. No one will be turned away for lack of funds!

Click on the photo to see what the Bennet sisters think about Pay What You Can Weekend!

Show times are Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00. Reserve your seat by calling our ticket hot line at (510) 895-2573. Spread the word and bring your friends! We look forward to seeing you there!

— Hallie

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Soft Eyes and a Blue Dress

Barry Eitel as Mr. Bingley.

Dear Journal—

I am sorry that I have not written in you in a very long time. Writing does not come easily to me. I am not one with much to say.

But journal, what a night. I am burning through candles thinking about the prettiest girl I have ever laid eyes upon, wondering when we will shall meet again. Cranky Fitzwilliam, no doubt, is tossing and turning in his bed. Typical Darcy. He was quite petulant tonight. Normally I would be embarrassed by his irritable temper, but I was so distracted by soft eyes and a blue dress, I let him sulk all night alone by the punchbowl. Caroline was acting strange as well. The ride home from the Meryton Dance was awkward, just me babbling about the night and the two of them barely glancing at each other.

Either way, they cannot keep my spirits grounded. Miss Jane Bennet is the subject of my love and the cause of my insomnia this night. How lucky that we live just down the road from each other. Not only does a warm sweetness envelop everything she says, she is a fantastic dancer, too! And her brown eyes, her dark brown hair, that dress…Jane’s enthusiasm for life is contagious, and I have a rarely met a girl as tenderhearted.

Elena Mae Spittler as Jane Bennet.

I know it has been but one night, yet I feel strangely like I want to propose marriage to Jane. There are certain, special moments when one is sure of what to do in an instant. I believe the second that I saw Jane was one of those times.

I also sensed an odd connection between Darcy and one of Jane’s sisters. Though he’d never admit it, I think he might be similarly charmed by a Bennet.

The last candle is about to go out, so I will have to retire to a surely sleepless night. I will have my sister call up the Bennet household tomorrow (would not want to appear too forward) and see if Jane would want to take a stroll around the gardens of Netherfield. This will be an interesting summer.

Until next time,

Charles Bingley (aka Barry Eitel)


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Working Harmoniously in the Dark

We have less than a week until opening night and rehearsals are in full swing. The amount of development the production has experienced over the past few days is both amazing and enriching. I thought I’d pen down few of my observations…

"When Lady Catherine insists, it's best to go with it."

Set Changes: Last weekend we choreographed the set changes. I have never been part of more extensive and complex set changes in past theater lives. And believe it or not, I started with the rather negative approach of , “Why do I have to this.” However, I ended up thinking, “Wow this seems good fun.” This was especially true when Hallie challenged us to make most set changes to happen in under 25 seconds. I loved it. It was like being in a battle field with the artillery being called upon to attack. But all fun aside – it was an amalgamation of absolute team work that required an understanding of every person on stage working harmoniously in the dark, changing a gazillion objects from one place to another. My special thanks to my pouf partner, Danielle, who taught me how to pick up heavy objects without hurting my back.

The Costumes: So, one night of rehearsal was just “costume call.” Seventeen of us tried all sorts of dresses and clothing specifically marked by character, size, and actors. There were, I am told, a total of eighty costumes to try on (not for me alone, of course). The amazing part was there were no overlaps, no fights, no attitude from any actors. We all did our little parade for the director- and she as the costume judge approved and/or disapproved of each outfit. It was a breeze considering there were so many of us and the costumes were a closet full.

Actor Turning into a Prop: My gorgeous daughter on stage, Laurie O’Brien, had a little mishap. She literally “broke her leg” (well ankle to be more specific)! Urg! what a loss to the characters she was playing (Lady Lucas, Georgiana, and Anne De Borough). On the brighter side, however, the character of Anne De Borough is a rather sick girl – so this mishap added a little texture to the play. Laurie turned into a prop and was assigned to four male actors during a scene change who carry her on stage as very sick Anne. This is hilarious and I think a very creative twist considering the circumstances.

Playing Multiple Roles: When I was originally cast in Pride and Prejudice, it was only as Lady Catherine de Borough. However, during our rehearsal period, the director added me as a mysterious, questionable woman, and then after Laurie’s mishap, I was assigned to play Lady Lucas. This gig came with a lot of surprises I thought. I’ve gone from playing Lady Catherine as a haughty, rich woman, to getting flirty with one of the most debonair and handsome actors (Alex, I wish the scene could have been longer), to embodying an old, haggard Lady Lucas. Though all characters make short appearances, I am loving the challenge of portraying all three of them – each one different from the other.

— Sukanya Sarkar (Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Lucas, and Woman of Questionable Character)

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Smiling from Ear to Ear

Nick is all smiles.

We’re gearing up for opening night now. Rehearsals have been getting longer, more frequent, and more intense. Tempers should be flaring, egos should be showing. Are they? Not at all. I’m proud to say this has been one of the most pleasant rehearsal processes I’ve ever had.

This cast is so wonderfully talented. Every single actor shines brilliantly in their role (roles for some people). I’ve been the rehearsal prompt when I am not onstage, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching all of the scenes multiple times. Every single time I’m grinning like a kid (sure I can still be considered a kid, but shhh, that doesn’t matter). Last night’s rehearsal was the first time I’ve seen Sukanya in one of the scenes, and I swear the laughs that escaped my throat were inhuman, really.

Most of the people coming to this show expecting a haughty, grand, pretentious love story will be pleasantly surprised. At the heart of this story is a charming tale about family and expectations, and although many of those expectations are left unmet, the characters triumph (spoiler!). It’s uplifting.

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If you’re following this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re going to come see the show, so I probably don’t need to advertise much. However, I must say, in (more or less) the words of Lizzy: Whoever leaves this show not smiling from ear to ear should have their eyes examined. I adore every single person involved in this production, and what they bring to the show is a warm, genuine feeling that makes this show what it is. You do not want to miss this one.

— Nick Kempen (Vocalist, Captain Denny, William, Mr. Reynolds, Uncle Gardiner, and the mailman)


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Snappy Suits & Dandy Dresses

One of my favorite moments of any rehearsal process is the day the cast goes on a costume parade. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Actors raid their characters’ closets and walk back and forth across the set while the director and costume designer give each outfit an official “yay” or “nay”.

Nick knows he looks good in this snappy jacket and vest combo.

Perhaps I’m biased, but don’t you agree that Pride and Prejudice is filled to the brim with ridiculously attractive actors looking exceptionally dapper? (I know you do. And I promise not to be mad if you come to the show for the romance, but stay for the wardrobe).

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— Hallie

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Colpo Di Fulmine

“When you are in love you can’t fall asleep because
reality is better than your dreams.”
-Dr. Seuss-

Dear Diary,

Photo courtesy of Paul Simcock Photography.

Lizzy is fast asleep but I am too excited to go to bed. Tonight we went to a dance at Meryton where we met Mr. Bingley, Caroline, and Mr. Darcy. Caroline is a sweet, refined, classy girl. She told me all about Grosvenor Square and I already feel we could be great friends. Lizzy, however, did not seem impressed by her. Mr. Darcy was very nice as well but he was more reserved than the others. He refused to dance with Lizzy and this greatly offended her.  I hope he was just having a bad night and that was why he refused her.

Mr. Bingley… is heavenly. From the instant Charlotte pointed him out I was taken aback by how handsome he was.  As he walked across the room to greet us, I felt as though the whole world and all my worries vanished and all I could see was him. I’ve never felt more pleasant and light headed in my life! He kept smiling at me and I felt in such a daze I could hardly hold myself upright. I had to look away to conceal my attraction to him. Then he asked me to dance! I was so nervous I could hardly get my words out properly but somehow I managed to say yes. The way he held me as we danced was so tender. I felt so at peace, whole, and alive all at the same time. He gazed at me through his soft brown eyes with such attention and affection it made me feel like he really saw me, every aspect of me, and respected and admired me. I have never met a man more pure, honest, and kind. Since the moment I laid eyes on him I haven’t been able to think of anything else but him. I know it sounds silly and premature, and I feel ridiculous saying this, but I honestly feel I could spend my life with him. I am not sure, but I think he likes me too! When we were saying goodbye he held my hand and told me he had a very enjoyable evening.  Hopefully I will get to see him soon! I just hope Lizzy can forgive Darcy for refusing her and see how nice Caroline really is.

I could lay up all night with this ridiculous smile plastered on my face but it is getting late and I really should go to bed. Goodnight for now!

— Jane (Elena Mae Spittler)

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The Multiple Role Playing Game

As a child, Jane Austen to me was synonymous with a long, boring British miniseries.  For as long as I can remember, my mother has been a die-hard Austen fan, and it took me until my early 20’s to give up the rebel act and discover the sheer joy and brilliance of her works for myself.  No other book but Pride and Prejudice has left me with the same feeling of utter bliss and satisfaction for having completed it.  To this day, I hold it as my firm favorite and as one of the greatest stories of all time, so I knew when my roommate Rachel (who plays Kitty) alerted me to auditions for a local P&P adaptation, I had to jump on board.

Georgiana and her big brother.

I have the privilege and responsibility of playing three roles in the show (in order of appearance): Lady Lucas (Charlotte’s mother/Mrs. Bennet’s go-to partner in gossip crime), Anne De Bourgh (Lady Catherine’s sickly daughter) and last but not least, the frequently mentioned yet scarcely seen Georgiana Darcy.

Although I have fewer lines than the show’s other characters, I’ve got plenty to work with. I won’t give too much away but let’s just say Hallie has had a bit of fun with her sickly Anne adaptation which I can’t wait to deliver for an audience.  I haven’t rehearsed for Lady Lucas yet but certainly look forward to stretching my acting muscles to find my inner middle-aged flibbertigibbet for the Meryton and Netherfield dance scenes!

As for Miss Georgiana Darcy, I love that her role is so crucial to the plot line, even if she doesn’t make her appearance until close to the end.  She is a character left to the reader/audience’s imagination, helped along by various, sometimes conflicting descriptions by Caroline Bingley, Mr. Wickham, and the Pemberley tour guide.  Her brother–Mr. Darcy himself–is the keenest clue we have to forming anything conclusive about what she might be like… but even that point of comparison can only serve to tell us superficial things like how she grew up, her level of etiquette, and good breeding.  Of course she turns out to be modest, sweet, and lovely as can be when we do finally meet her in the flesh… making the anticipation all the more worthwhile.  As someone who grew up with an older brother as my only sibling myself, I definitely identify with that personality-shaping dynamic, so it’s naturally the factor at the forefront of my mind when personifying her on stage.

Kristin House and Danielle Gray practice styling Laurie's hair in a 40's fashion.

Acting stuff aside, I’ve loved getting to know my fellow castmates–everyone is so talented and seems to fit his/her role seamlessly.  It’s so much fun observing the scenes coming together–particularly the ones highlighting the Bennet family at home in a 1940’s context.  I think Austen lovers in particular will get a kick out of seeing their favorite, flawed yet lovable Bennets in this setting.  April 14th can’t come soon enough!

–Laurie O’Brien (Lady Lucas, Anne de Bourgh, and Georgiana Darcy)


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On Being a Bingley

Being a Bingley is harder than it first appears.

Throwing lavish parties, entertaining guests, allowing tourists to walk through your house–managing an estate is tough.

Best friends forever. Charles and Fitzwilliam with their little sisters, Caroline and Georgiana.

Okay, well maybe not that tough. But being loaded does take a toll on a person’s personality. Luckily, Charles has a sweet naïveté. Unlike his sister and his best friend Darcy, Charles seems to not see class. He digs the Bennett sisters even though they are so much poorer than he. He’s a really fun character to play and this will be a great, yet faithful, adaptation of one of the most beloved books in history.

Barry Eitel as Mr. Bingley and Barnaby Williams as Mr. Darcy.

Thanks a lot to Hallie, Terry, and the rest of SLP. I was in their fall production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession and that was a fantastic experience. It’s great that the communtiy of San Leandro supports their local theatre so much. I hope everyone out there can come and see it!!

— Barry Eitel (Mr. Charles Bingley)

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Complexities of Human Emotion

I am so happy to be embarking on this journey along side such sweet and talented people. Pride and Prejudice is not only a brilliant social commentary, but most importantly I believe a sharp and accurate portrayal of the complexities of human emotion. This is why Hallie’s decision to set it during the 1940’s is a great one, as it shows the story’s unique flexibility.

Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley

While preparing to play the role of Mr. Darcy I am finding it hard to disassociate myself from all of the existing images of such an iconic character. There have been so many wonderful renditions that I fear it will be difficult for me to make the role my own. I must instead seek to discover the truth behind his actions, the human wants and needs that posses and motivate him. The biggest challenge may be that Darcy does not actively perform his personality. By this I mean that he has little interest in other people’s opinions of himself and does not seek to change them. This is usually a huge motivator for many people and can often be a gold mine for determining objectives for characters. I feel that Lizzie’s good opinion is one of the few that Darcy has ever sought, which is what makes their relationship so interesting and tumultuous. I hope to learn more about Mr. Darcy as the rehearsal process progresses.

— Barnaby  Williams (Mr. Darcy)

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