Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 46
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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PHS Spectacle Theatre Presents Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”

Linda Arntzenius

Princeton High School’s Spectacle Theatre Company will perform a stage version of Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, in the Princeton Performing Arts Center at the high school on Friday, November 16, and Saturday, November 17, at 8 p.m.

PHS drama teacher Patricia Wray has chosen the 1934 Helen Jerome adaptation of Ms. Austen’s comedy of manners, for her student performers. “As always our dual goal is to both entertain and educate,” said Ms. Wray. “With an enchanting romantic plot, unforgettable characters, gossipy conversations, and witty dialogue, the audience should find this peek into Regency Era drawing room society very entertaining.”

The study of Jane Austen’s novels is part of the high school’s English curriculum. By bringing Pride and Prejudice to the stage, Ms. Wray hopes students will gain deeper insights regarding social status and wealth, the role of women, and the danger of first impressions. “These are the dilemmas that the students were living through the characters every day at rehearsal,” she said.

The production crew will be working for the first time with professional scenic designer Drew Francis, who is also a professor of design at Lehigh University. His pedagogical goal is to enhance the education and practical application of stagecraft.

Students will also benefit from the experience of collaborating with new lighting designer, Travis Kerr, an Ekhardt’s College Scholar from Lehigh University, and new technical director, Sarah Meagher. “The set, lights, and props are gorgeous,” said Ms. Wray. “We think Jane Austen would be proud.”

Pride and Prejudice — the title refers to the way in which the two lead characters initially view each other — is the story of the well-brought up but impecunious Bennet sisters whose mother wants nothing more than to see her daughters securely married to men of means.

As the story unfolds, an unlikely relationship develops between the lively, quick-witted and strong-willed Elizabeth and the haughty and indifferent Mr. Darcy in which initial misunderstandings give way to mutual enlightenment.

Senior Caroline Black will take the stage as the outspoken and opinionated Elizabeth, of whom Jane Austen was especially fond. In a letter she said of her: “I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.”

Alana Osborn-Leif will play Elizabeth’s older sister, the demure belle-of-the-ball Jane. Lydia Bennet will be played by freshman Grace Klinges and junior Kathryn Rickman will play Mrs. Bennet, the sisters’ fluttery desperate mother.

Mr. Darcy will be played by senior Luke Brunskill. Senior Evan Weiss will take on the role of Mr. Bennet and junior Ben Taub will play Mr. Bingley.

The cast is treading in some celebrated footsteps, the novel having been adapted for stage and screen many times.

Helen Jerome’s stage version, Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts, inspired the 1940 MGM film with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet.

Recent adaptations include the 2004 Bride and Prejudice, directed by Gurinder Chadha, and the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, directed by Debra Moggach with Keira Knight-ley and Matthew MacFadyen in the leading roles.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) began writing stories at the age of 14 and the novel that became Pride and Prejudice in 1795. Her father, George Austen, a clergyman, took his daughter’s manuscript to a publisher in 1797, but it was turned down. It was eventually published in 1813. The second-youngest of George and Cassandra Austen’s six boys and two girls, she was especially close to her older sister Cassandra. She never married.

Described by Virginia Woolf as “the most perfect artist among women,” Jane Austen considered Pride and Prejudice to be perhaps the best of all her literary achievements.

Lizzie and Mr. Darcy will find each other on Friday, November 16, and Saturday, November 17, at 8 p.m. Admission is $5 for students and seniors, and $8 for adults. Tickets will be on sale at the high school theatre box office before the performances.

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