Davidson College Mainstage Theatre Production of “Pride & Prejudice”

The Davidson College Theatre Department will present one of its most ambitious efforts ever in producing the North Carolina premier of one of literature’s most popular love stories October 27-31.

The college’s presentation of Jane Austen’s beloved 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, will be the state premier of a 2009 adaptation of the play by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan originally produced at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Professor of Theatre Ann Marie Costa, who directs the production, has assembled an “A Team” of area theatre professionals and a large student cast to reinforce the script with an energetic, rich production that highlights the humor and complexity of Austen’s characters. She said the new adaptation will especially appeal to Jane Austen fans because it maintains much of the actual dialogue of the novel.

All shows will take place in the Duke Family Performance Hall. The play will begin at 7:30 p.m. on October 27 and 28, 8:15 p.m. on October 29, 8 p.m. on October 30, and 2 p.m. on October 31. Tickets are $15 for general admission. $11 for seniors, and $6 for students. For reservations call 704-894-2135 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays or visit www.davidson.edu/tickets. For more information on the production, which is recommended for ages 10 and up, call 704-894-2912.

The plot of Pride and Prejudice focuses on the young Elizabeth Bennett as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the landed gentry society of early 19th century England. Elizabeth and her four unmarried sisters live with their father and a zealous matchmaker of a mother. But Elizabeth’s priorities are far from husband-hunting, and when she meets the handsome Mr. Darcy she finds him proud and arrogant. Eventually, however, in this enchanting story of love, marriage, and mutual understanding, Elizabeth discovers that a man can change his manners and a woman can change her mind.

Costa said the Davidson production will present characters, sets and action true to the Regency period of English history in which Austen wrote the novel. Costa said, “Elizabeth and Darcy’s sense of wit, propriety and social grace—their pride and prejudice, if you will—push them away from each other. It’s an exciting relationship for the audience, which ends up rooting for them to overcome their obstinance and get together.”

Davidson Associate Professor of English Maria Fackler, who teaches the novel in several classes, noted that Pride and Prejudice was voted by members of the Romantic Novelists Association as the most romantic book of all times. According to Fackler, Austen helped shape the novel as a literary form. Fackler said, “Jane Austen is a pivotal figure between the first practitioners of the novel like Fielding, and major Victorian novelists like Charles Dickens and George Elliott.”

Wikipedia states that the book has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

The Davidson production involves 21 student actors and two community actors. By show time, many of them will have rehearsed for 20 hours per week for six straight weeks. The lead roles of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are being played by Samantha Krusi ’13 and Paul DiFiore ’13.

Though this is the first Davidson theatre role for DiFiore, a sophomore from Dallas, he was heavily involved in high school theatre. He admitted his assignment to the leading role of Mr. Darcy came as a surprise, but he’s enjoying the challenge of enlivening this mostly reserved character. He said, “Ann Marie Costa has been great in teaching me how to set an objective for each scene, and then figuring out the acting tactics I should employ to achieve them.”

DiFiore said the Davidson production should be highly entertaining for the audience as a “solid, full production.” It will include large ball scenes, dynamic lighting, elaborate costumes, music, and many scene changes.

Music provides almost constant accompaniment for the play, with theme music for lead characters and multiple instruments playing in large ballroom scenes. Davidson College music faculty member Cynthia Lawing played the piano parts on a modern instrument, and Bill Lawing, another music faculty member, converted it electronically to mimic the sound of a piano forte, the instrument played in Austen’s time. Sam Van Hallgren, a producer with WDAV, created the overall sound design for the play.

Charlotte-based costume designers Bob Croghan and Heidi O’Hare are creating period costumes from scratch for female characters, and Davidson College set designer Josh Peklo has built two major automated platforms that will support outdoor and indoor worlds for 50 scene changes. Delia Neil of UNC Charlotte is choreographing English country dance scenes, and Todd Wren has designed the lighting.

Costa noted this is the first adaptation of a novel the Theatre Department has produced in her 17 years on faculty. But the occasion has given her the welcome opportunity to consult about the play with Fackler and other English department colleagues. In addition, several of those colleagues will be bringing their classes to see the play, and will be involved in post-production talk-backs about it.

“The elaborate set, lush costuming, complex choreography and musical accompaniment make it akin to a musical,” Costa noted. “I promise it will be quite an entertaining night at the theatre!”

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.

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