From November 3 to 5, Choate’s theater department performed Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on the PMAC Main Stage, the second production of fall term. A character-driven, gossip-ridden play, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of the Bennet sisters, who seek happiness in the 19th century, an era filled with double standards, parental pressures, and societal restrictions.
According to director Ms. Tracy Ginder-Delventhal, rehearsals started with script read-throughs and discussions about the director’s vision. The cast was encouraged to read the original Austen novel themselves. “We had to study the motivation of each scene,” said Ms. Ginder-Delventhal, “and distinguish the different arcs in the play.”
Character exercises were also employed to get students to better understand the social norms and structure of the 19th century era as depicted in the play. “The exercises helped both internally and physically,” said Katie Bell ’13, who played Miss Jane Bennet. “We had to realize how people behaved in that time, but also how they felt about things like love and romance.” Mia Volta ’13, who played Miss Elizabeth Bennet, commented on the romantic ideals that her character held: “Elizabeth is very different from her sisters and the women around her because marriage is not her goal; she believes in choosing to love who she loves, which is something that was very frowned upon in that era.”
According to the cast, one thing that set this play apart from others was its passiveness. “A lot of the action and turning points in the play happen off screen and are told by the characters in conversation,” said Volta ‘13. Ms. Ginder-Delventhal said it was the passive interactions between the characters that led her to consider it in May for this fall term. “This play was written by a woman who led a pretty temperate life, so the climaxes and the crises are gentle,” said Ms. Ginder-Delventhal. “It’s about love. It’s not about witches, for example. And that’s what I liked about it; it gave us the opportunity to work in a light way rather than a theatrical way. The Crucible and Guys and Dolls were both so grand, but Pride has a softer feel.”
One particularly notable character was Reverend Collins, played by Marcus Sudac ‘13. As he seeks Elizabeth’s hand in marriage and as she rebuffs his advances, his attempts seem less innocent and more desperate, or as Sudac put it, “Why won’t you just marry me already?” Once he realizes that Elizabeth has no intention of marrying him, Reverend Collins has an emotional breakdown, and the audience members almost sympathize for him before he quickly marries Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte, and settles into a less kooky, more somber character. “One of the biggest struggles I had with this production was trying to figure out how to portray this character,” said Sudac. “This is not the type of character I usually play, so I got a lot of help from Tracy. However, I had a lot of fun playing the comic relief.”
Audience member Denay Mack ‘12 thought that the cast had a strong dynamic: “They played off each other very well. I didn’t even realize that the trip in the second act was an accident.” Many students also agreed that the second act was stronger, because of the faster pace. “It was more exciting because that was when most of the action occurred,” said Matt Heise ‘12, “but at two and half hours, it was a little long.”
The cast members unanimously agreed that the cast was a strong one. “There were a lot of new people in the cast,” said Bell, “but everybody was amazing. There’s a lot of new talent here at Choate.” Sudac, who was nervous at first about the six different dances that the actors had to learn, said, “The other students helped me a lot with the dancing, and my dancing partner, Meg Guzulescu ‘14, was really helpful since she was experienced with musicals and choreography.”
“The whole experience was nerve-wracking but I loved every moment of it,” said Volta.