Pride & Prejudice: A Modern Take on A Beloved Story

Ladies and gentlemen, it is that time of year! The Grace Theatre Company just finished wrapping up yet another successful fall production, and we can all agree, it surpassed everyone’s highest expectations. This year, the cast and crew performed an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” which, unsurprisingly, was received very well by the students, teachers and parents. Written in 1813, the romantic novel with the same name, “Pride and Prejudice” studies the emotional development of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, as she comes to understand the distinction between necessity and desire. Instead of performing the classic, Ms. Jacob, Drama Coordinator, JK-12, decided to switch directions and chose a more contemporary adaptation.

The preparation for this play was quite time consuming and those who have never been a part of a theater production before might not realize how much tedious work goes into it. For the Grace Theatre Company, the process begins the spring of the previous year, in which Ms. Jacob decides upon three possible candidates for the fall performance. Each year, she is lent a hand by several intrigued students, who help her read over a variety of scripts, as well as discuss and debate the best choices. Having a comedy in mind, Ms Jacob needed to find a play that fit all the proper criteria, including appropriateness for school, a wide range of diverse characters, as well as being artfully written. Despite its success,  “Pride and Prejudice” was actually the Theatre Company’s last choice, behind Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and The Heidi Chronicles. Since the shows were not written by Grace students or staff, Ms, Jacob had to secure the rights to produce the play. There were difficulties in getting the rights for both of Grace Theatre Company’s first and second choices, but, in the end, “Pride and Prejudice” ended up being exactly what Ms. Jacob was looking for.  Looking to bridge the gap between things the school considers old and outdated and now, Ms. Jacob decided to direct Kate Hamill’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice”.

On opening day, family and friends poured into Grace’s multipurpose room, which had been miraculously transformed into a life like representation of a home. For those who have read the original “Pride and Prejudice,” or any of the Jane Austen novels, then witnessing the plays’ first scene came as a shock, considering the cast came onto the stage wearing gym clothes and sweat bands, insead of the attire more appropriate to the time period. “Throughout the play, there is a sense across the board that love is a game, and so my first thought in terms of the concept was to begin the performance on a basketball court,” commented Ms. Jacob. This idea sparked the overarching theme for the plays set which included a large selection of board games, balls and childrens toys.

In continuation of the concept Ms. Jacob blindfolded the cast members as to mimic blind man’s bluff, an old fashion game that was played between women and their suitors. “The blindfold’s were actually written into the script and to me the whole idea of  it sounded very unsettling. I thought it was interesting to play with because two of the male love interests are played by women and so I had to really think about how I was going to portray the fact that we had so many more women in the cast than men and yet the men still maintain this power even though they are outnumbered,” Ms. Jacob added. The adaptation, although keeping with the novel’s feminist undertones, updated the antiquated ideologies of Jane Austen’s time in order to produce a more modern sensibility. The adaptation perfectly blended and balanced the old views of the novel and the forward thinking of the twenty-first century.

The impressive rhetoric, perfectly timed choreography, and, often unexpectedly cynical humor left the audience in complete awe. It was surprising to find out that some members of the cast who had leading roles did not have much experience with acting and performing prior to their time at Grace. Abisola Fashakin ‘19 who played Mrs. Bennet, the excessively boisterous mother whose only hope is get her daughters married off, mentioned her lacking confidence in acting prior to the fall play when compared to her love for musical theater. In previous years, Abisola played Phoebe in As You Like It and Jason Vorhees in Necessary Evil. Since she is, “Naturally more comfortable in musicals,” like As You Like It, and spent the majority of her time on stage in Necessary Evil with a mask on, her role in “Pride and Prejudice” challenged her in beneficial ways. “It has always been a personal goal of mine to portray a peppy character in a play where I could not rely on singing or anything else to overshadow my acting,” Abisola commented. She was particularly drawn to audition for “Pride and Prejudice”, because of her love for comedy in theater.  She also developed a love for the production process. She commented that, “It was really nice to be able to form relationships with some people I’ve known for 3 years and some that I’ve just met, and be comfortable enough to try things that might be embarrassing.” Other participants in the play, like Petra Hinds ‘20, have devoted a large part of their life prior to Grace to theater. Petra has also taken part in As You Like It and Cabaret.

“Pride and Prejudice” was a wonderfully explosive way to start off The Grace Theatre Company’s year. The plays’ captivating effect left the audience wishing it never would end. Although the performance had only one set, the actors and actresses were able to effectively show distinct transitions in seconds. The cast showed both a limitless talent as they humored and charmed their way through every scene. Each and every aspect of the show was thoughtfully and impressively planned out making it such a delight to see.  

Photos by Grace Alumni Parent Irene Kaufman.





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