Tag Archives: Elizabeth

More Than Just a Cast

Taylor during the costume parade.

Acting is my passion. This craft feeds my soul and I am truly happy when I’m on stage. I love the dynamic of being able to share that passion with other actors during a show.

Then there’s this cast.

The cast of Pride and Prejudice is so much more than just a cast. We are a family. When one cast member is sad or sick, we pick each other up. When one cast member needs her hair curled or help with a costume, we help. No questions asked. When someone forgets a prop or scene change, we cover for each other.The positive energy backstage is amazing. It fuels me to be my very best in every aspect of the show.

The lovely Bennet sisters.

I’ve always been insecure, and acting has helped a lot, but I never in a million years thought I could pull off the comedic timing and wild personality  of Lydia.  Thanks to the laughs and compliments from my family (a.k.a cast) I humbly have the confidence to explore new choices I never knew I was capable of. So thank you all! You have done so much for me and this has been one of the happiest, most hilarious and talented group of people I ever had the pleasure of working with. Love you all!

— Taylor Melville (Lydia Bennet)

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Making Lemon Drops

After a wonderfully perfect opening weekend of Pride and Prejudice you would think all my worries would be far away. Everything we worked for was a success!…but it wasn’t that way.  I was dreading Monday: the day I would get a wisdom tooth pulled.  “I can heal fast from just ONE right?” I thought it would be quick and easy, but when I got to the oral surgeon’s office, he had other plans for me. He thought it best to take out all four of them at once – which is normal – unless you have to sing the next Saturday. In that case, it becomes your worst nightmare. But what choice did I have? So I just went with it hoping for the best.  I left the office just like any other patient, still completely out of it and slept the entire day with a chipmunk face.

Sarah plays the piano as Nick and Kristin sing.

I was adamant the next day, however, about healing fast, and I’m pretty sure my will to get better helped me that much more.  I stayed home from work, sat in bed all day, practiced moving my jaw (it can get pretty hard to open your mouth afterwards)… anything to get me ready by Saturday. Thursday was my first day back to work since the surgery and everyone was pretty surprised at how fast I recovered.

Bennet sisters (clockwise from top left): Rose as Lizzy, Kristin as Mary, Taylor as Lydia, Elena as Jane, and Rachel as Kitty.

 You can do anything you set your mind to I guess; but for me, it was more than that. When I thought about all that I had sacrificed and put into the show – and not only me, but my fellow actors and director – I wasn’t going to let a few teeth get in the way of everything we had worked for! Every weekend is as important as the next, different crowds, different reactions…we need to be at our very best in every show!  And who cares if I’m still swollen? The way I see it, it gives Mary a little more character! And I will sing to the best of my abilities on Saturday and be proud of all the work all of us have put into this! As actors, we get the joy of escaping with our audience into another world for a few hours, but, unfortunately, we can’t get away from the realities of life forever.  You just have to learn to work with what you’re given. When life gives you lemons…make lemon drops!
— Kristin Tavares (Mary Bennet and Vocalist)

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First Impressions in the Modern Market

Pride and Prejudice,  “a novel in three volumes by the author of Sense and Sensibility” (itself styled “By A Lady”) was first published in 1813. This past December that Lady turned 236 years old and she remains as popular as ever. Countless editions of this, her best-known book have been printed, plays have been adapted, and movies have been produced.

Jane’s come a long way since 1813, and so has the business of Austen. After all, here we are in 2012, marketing our own, brand new production via blog, tumblr, and facebook. I even own a Jane Austen action figure. So, how do publishers go about selling classic Austen books to the next generation of readers?  The answer, fittingly, is in first impressions.

One of my hobbies is collecting book covers (nerd alert). I am endlessly fascinated by how different artists envision new works and re-imagine classics, all with the aim to catch the eye of the reader. Ruben Toledo’s Pride and Prejudice is a personal favorite, and I’m less fond of ones where all I can see is a “Now a major motion picture” sticker. A while back I was browsing through the young adult section of the bookstore when I came across this:

Coupled with similarly styled copies of Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet, I found Pride and Prejudice done up to look like Twilight. At first I was shocked. Then vaguely insulted. Then I ranted at my friend for twenty minutes about how Bella and Edward should never be compared to Lizzy and Darcy (or to the loves stories in Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights) since they would probably spend their time making fun of Romeo and Juliet and running away screaming from Cathy and Heathcliff. Click here for a visual representation of what I mean.  But now, all I can think is that it’s brilliant.

Twilight contains many a reference to Austen’s works, while the second and third books in the series actually loosely base their plots on Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights. Bella and Edward even discuss the similarity of their lives to those of the characters in the classic books they’re reading. (Makes the old English class assignment about how this book relates to one’s life a bit more pertinent if your life actually is a tragic romance). Wuthering Heights even has a sticker listing it as “Bella and Edward’s favorite book.” I’ll bet that if my younger cousin saw that she wouldn’t stop reading until the vampires showed up.

And since our play updates Pride and Prejudice to a more modern era, I thought I’d share a recent find: a copy of Pride and Prejudice from 1940.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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Woe is Mrs. Bennet

“Raising five daughters is so exhausting!  They’re all beautiful (unlike poor Charlotte Lucas!) grown, and ready to wed, but where are all the good, rich, husbands? 

What a mess my husband’s family made of our prospects!  My poor daughters have no estate to inherit (alas, we have no sons), so we’re facing the prospect of being thrown out in the street when their father dies!  Oh, he looks healthy enough…but you never know!  Oh, what’s a poor mother to do!”

Back: Jane, Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet, Mary
Front: Kitty, Mr. Bennet, Lydia

Anyway, that’s the situation Mrs. Bennet faces in Pride & Prejudice.  It’s fun connecting with social attitudes that are over 150 years old; that almost the only good prospect for a girl was marriage to a rich man.  Ugghhh!  How far we’ve come…or have we?  This story still resonates, and it says something to each of us.  Different things to different people, but there you go!

— Terry Guillory (Mrs. Bennet)

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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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Feel Free to Invite Jane Austen

Spoiler alert!

With a well-written, compelling story comes….a billion adaptations! Did anyone see the Hunger Games movie? Yeah, it was okay, but everyone liked the books better.  And who’s excited about the new “Spiderman” movie?!!? Trick question. Nobody is. They have already made 15 “Spiderman” movies and none of them were that great. (I don’t want to belabor the point here, but Spiderman is supposed to be good-looking. So they put Tobey Maguire in the role? If I fell off a building and he tried to save me, I would be appreciative, of course, but pretty disappointed. And now Andrew Garfield is supposed to be the Spiderman upgrade? Oh, please. I’d say he’s…”tolerable at best”).

Barnaby and Rose drafting line possibilities for one of the show's most pivotal scenes.

When the audience already knows the story and has high expectations, adaptations can be quite tricky. However, I firmly believe that Hallie respects the essence of Pride and Prejudice and has written a version of the story that Jane Austen would watch with utmost approval. We were originally struggling with the lines for Darcy’s second proposal, but then Hallie sat us down with copies of the original book, transcripts of the BBC version and the Keira Knightley version, and our current scripts. We read various selections from each, combined lines from different versions, and eventually came up with with a scene that reflects the original sentiment. Hallie has changed the language throughout the play to make it 1940’s-appropriate, but Jane Austen’s prose still shines through the entire play.

Our talented vocalists will be performing before the show and during intermission to jazz up the production. We’re not putting on a full-on musical, but it has certainly been done! Check out this clip from the finale of Pride and Prejudice, The Musical:

And our Netherfield dance doesn’t look anything like this scene from Bride and Prejudice, but I have no doubt that we’ll be able to match their level of energy if we drink enough sodas from Rocky’s:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoLtHqS_LhA

–Rose Oser (Elizabeth Bennet)

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Each Fleeting Moment

(This post was inspired by motivational talks from my roommate, cast-mate, and forever-Hall-&-Oates-dance-partner, Laurikins O’Brien).

As opening night rapidly approaches, I feel a cauldron of nervous energy brewing in the pit of my stomach. I genuinely forgot how much hard work a production takes. Sweet baby Jesus, it’s a lot of concerted time and energy.

When the Bennet sisters stand in line according to age, the cast calls it "Von Trapping".

And, as so proves my experience with most other things in life, the more time and energy you put into a project, the more emotionally invested you become. And, the more emotionally invested you become, the higher your hopes and expectations for the anticipated outcome. Anticipation for the unknown causes anxiety…and there’s a helluva lot of unknown tangled up in my expectations for the next few weeks.

My anxiety stems, I think, mostly from anticipation of my ability to deliver for the two groups whose opinions I care about the most: our audience and our cast.

A flurry of questions around those two subjects has been floating around in my head lately. While sitting on BART commuting into work, I find myself imagining our future audience: Will we have an engaged and supportive crowd? Will they laugh at the right moments and appreciate our creative interpretation of Jane Austen’s epic story? What message will they take away from it all?

While throwing my laundry into the dryer at home, a different set of questions about our cast wanders into my mind: Will our long nights spent at rehearsal pay off in the fluidity of our scenes? Will I forget a scene change and screw up someone’s blocking? Will I drop a line and dampen the integrity of Hallie’s script?

An epic battle ensues between Kitty and Lydia.

And the answers? …nobody knows.

Great. More anxiety.

Yet, among the wild unknown occupying space and igniting fear inside my brain, there is one small but significant piece that I can control: how I react to it.

Arguably, I have two choices when deciding how to respond to my fear. I can:

  1. choose to resist; forcing nervous thoughts to the corners of my mind, creating a distant but condensed, and often overwhelming, form of my anxiety… or
  2. use it. Accept my nervous energy as a sign that this is something I care about deeply. Bottle that energy and transform it into a force propelling me to do the best that I can, and to appreciate each moment as it passes—the successes as much as the failures. With a big smile and a light heart, I can choose to embrace and even appreciate my own sense of fear. I can let go of self-inflicted pressure in favor of enjoying the experience.

So, with a resounding sense of confidence, I choose option #2.

I make this choice partly because I care about our audience, and feel that my energy-infused performance will help make the most of their experience, and partly because I care about our cast, and feel that my positive attitude will help make the most of their experience.

Kristin as Mary, Rachel as Kitty, Taylor as Lydia, and Terry as Mrs. Bennet.

…but mostly because, once this is all over, I know it will have passed by too fast. And I know that making a conscious choice to appreciate the distinct flavors of each fleeting moment as it passes is the only way I can possibly make the most of my experience.

And that is what it’s all about, anyway.

All of my love,

Kitty Bennet (aka Rachel Olmedo)

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Pride and Playfulness

This post discusses major plot points in the story. Divert your eyes if you want to be surprised!

I am Austen-obsessed. I’ve seen every movie-adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that I could get my hands on, read sequels and re-imaginings from Darcy’s Daughters to Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and researched enough for a lifetime of scholarly discussions. Everything about the work enchants me, from her characters to the portrait Austen draws of the times; even mentions of the price of a new dress or what they’ll cook for dinner that night inspire me to find out the approximate currency exchange to today, or how exactly one would cook that particular game fowl.

So why do I (and many others) care so much about stories written two centuries ago, set in a world so far removed from our modern lives? What is it about Jane Austen that has inspired so many, all the way up to this whole new take on Pride and Prejudice?

The reasons are many and won’t fit into one blog post. But I think one of the most important is humor.

A group of high school students being ‘forced’ to read Pride and Prejudice won’t agree with me here (not YET), but Austen is hilarious. And part of what makes her stories so funny is how real it all seems. Who among us hasn’t been mortified by our relatives, or made fools of ourselves in new company? It’s part of the human experience, as is telling the tale to a friend later and rolling on the floor laughing at ourselves, even if at the time we could only think a Kitty-esque “My life is OVER!”

Charlotte Lucas shares surprising news with Lizzy.

Elizabeth Bennett loves to laugh at people, as does Charlotte Lucas. These are the characters we identify with, as they observe the absurdity in their surroundings and find ways to have fun at their expense. But what truly makes these characters so likable is a willingness not to take themselves seriously, to laugh at themselves as much as at their neighbors, so strongly juxtaposed with the self-righteousness of Mr. Collins, Mary’s too-serious take on life, and Lady Catherine’s incredible sense of importance. Darcy’s pride is what first gets between him and Lizzy, and even when all is settled between them “to be the happiest couple in the world,” Lizzy knows that “he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin.”

This is one of the many things I love so much about our production. Real life is full of the slapstick, and consequently, so is our production of Pride and Prejudice. This week we’ve been working more intensely on individual scenes, going deeper into our character’s motivations, and finding so many new jokes we can hardly say our lines for laughter. Doors are slamming, nervous boys are tripping over their feet on the way to talk to pretty girls, and heads are popping around doors in a cartoon stack to spy on what must be one of the worst proposals OF ALL TIME. (It’s vying for the title with one just a few scenes later, which it is my pleasure to interrupt (of course!) at quite an awkward moment).

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So the moral of this particular story is that we love Austen for her humor, because that is what makes her stories (and us) so very human. The ability to laugh at oneself, not money, manners or even sweetness of temper, is Pride and Prejudice’s greatest virtue.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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