Tag Archives: Kitty

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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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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A Well-Oiled Machine

Alex and Sarah chat during a rehearsal break.

It seems like it was only yesterday when we had our first reading of the script with the assembled cast . . . and now here we are a couple of months later, a well-oiled machine in my opinion. Our opening weekend was a strong indicator of this as smiles and laughter filled the space on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Even our small audience on the preview night was receptive to our hard work. Everything sort of came together magically the last week of rehearsals and the result is an awesome show put on by a fun group of people. The sound and lighting have been on point, and Michael Guillory’s  set design has enhanced everybody’s work and has made me step up in my role (onstage and off). Even the scene changes (which seemed ridiculous at many points in the final week before opening) now feel like a breeze.

Kitty, Mrs. Bennet, and Mr. Wickham share a laugh.

I know that the show is only going to get better from here and that new discoveries will be made every night we take the stage.

— Alex Skinner (Mr. Wickham)

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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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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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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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