Tag Archives: Jane

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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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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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Last night I was asleep by 9:30. For someone who literally gets 3-4 hours of sleep per night during the week, the 9 full hours I clocked were nothing short of luxurious. Or, as Bingley might say, “They were just…they were perfect.”

But, I can’t say they were completely restful. With one short week before Pride and Prejudice opens it should be no surprise that I can’t stop thinking about the show – apparently even while unconscious. Needless to say, my dreams last night were all show related. Here’s a breakdown of the most memorable moments:

  • Mr. Darcy in 1970-something

    Mr. Darcy, 1970-something

    Someone stole all of the men’s costumes and replaced them with ugly, 1970’s inspired garb. During dress rehearsal, Mr. Darcy strutted his stuff wearing a bell-bottomed leisure suit and Mr. Bennet wore a tight, open-collared, avocado green polo. Both Barnaby and Scott said their new costumes felt more “authentic” than the old ones and refused to take them off. I cried.

  • ALL of the ladies burned their hair off after Elena shared a new curling iron with them. Eileen called every wig shop in the bay area but they were all sold out. I woke up as Terry was researching hats and bonnets…

Elena, post curling iron disaster

  • Nick decided that he didn’t want to sing the songs that we’ve been working on anymore. The Arctic Monkeys, he insisted, would be much more appropriate for the show. 505 became the new lead-in to Act II. Click the links for a better understanding of my ensuing panic attack.

Nick as the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys.

  • And finally, Laurie broke her ankle and I had to scramble to find a last minute replacement. After unsuccessfully offering her roles to four different actresses, I ultimately had to step in and go from crew to cast.

Laurie's current footwear

Oh wait, that last scenario wasn’t part of my stress dream…that actually happened!

Laurie will share all the details later, but for the time being, allow me to introduce Miss Georgiana Darcy:

Hallie as Georgiana

That's me as Georgie.

Oh my. Life suddenly got a little more interesting.

— Hallie (Director, writer, and Georgie, too)

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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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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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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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Austen Meets Improv

Taylor and Alex improving a scene.

I moved to the Bay Area recently from Chicago. If you’ve been to that toddlin’ town, or if you know anything about Second City, you know that Chicago theatre has a strong foundation in improvisation. A lot of people think that improv is solely comedy and coming up with ridiculous situations and ideas in a matter of seconds. That’s definitely a large part of it, but improv is essentially unscripted story telling in its most raw and honest format. It can be between one, two, three, seven, twenty-eight, or any number of people about any subject.

We’ve been using improv during some “Pride and Prejudice” rehearsals for several reasons. First of all, Austen is like Shakespeare in that the language is specific, lyrical, and follows a certain pattern. Even though Hallie is updating the script to fit a more modern setting, some of the language and situations are antiquated. Improv allows the actors to make the scenes and words real for themselves. Second, improv puts everyone on the same page. Whether you are an actor with years of experience or a young person just starting out, on book or off book, improv brings everyone to a similar starting point.

Jane and Lizzy gossip about Mr. Collins.

 

In our production, there are a few wordless moments that are happening in the background simultaneous to dialogue in the foreground. We’ve been asking the actors to improv these moments by adding their own dialogue – which hopefully assists them in finding the emotional reality of the situation as well as their character’s subtext. It’s been very interesting watching the actors tackle and explore this format for rehearsals. This cast is unique in their willingness to explore and play and take chances.

Barry and Barnaby love to improv.

I hope the audience will have as much fun as they are!

— Eileen Tull, Assistant Director

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Six Ladies and a Gentleman

Mr. Bennet and his women.

I vaguely remember reading Pride and Prejudice in high school many moons ago. I remember it was a difficult read and pretty dense stuff.  It seems that the folks who write the SAT exams must pull a lot of sections from the novel and use it for reading comprehension as part of their standardized tests.

I’ve been rereading the novel as we rehearse, and although my memory was sound (it still seems dense), I am really enjoying the writing and the story. Perhaps the passage of the many intervening years has helped a little in that regard. It’s clear that Jane Austen was a very smart lady and her most sympathetic characters in the story, Lizzie, Jane, and Mr. Darcy are pretty darn smart as well. I’ve found myself rereading a lot of what they say in the novel in order to better understand what they truly mean, and I’ve discovered that they have a lot of great things to say about integrity, loyalty and modesty.

Kitty, Rose, Mr. Bennet, Mary, and Jane.

While playing the role of Mr. Bennet, it is easy to be especially sympathetic to my two eldest daughters, Jane and Lizzie, because of their strength of character and the way they treat others. The play is also a lot of fun for me as the only male in a family of ladies who are each unique and provide lots of good acting choices and challenges. Some of those choices include having fun with some trying circumstances for the family.

The story and the play have several situations that would give any parent a lot of grey hair and worries. Coming from a large family of seven children, the play is giving me a more powerful sense of the stress I know that my siblings and I put our parents through. The story also shows how the Bennet family members, including their cousins, support each other in tough situations.

The cause of grey hair.

It’s been a lot of fun to work with a dedicated and talented group, and I’m looking forward to a great run in a few short weeks.

— Scott Van de Mark (Mr. Bennet)

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