Whether it be the book written in 1813 by Jane Austen herself, the countless movie reproductions or the play adapted by Jon Jory, most people are at least somewhat familiar with “Pride and Prejudice.” California Baptist University students brought this historically significant production to life in a whole new way Feb 15-23 at the Wallace Theatre.
The play’s lead character, headstrong Elizabeth Bennet, struggles to fend off obnoxious suitors, her matchmaking mother and four sisters who are eager for her to fulfill her 19th century obligation of marriage to a successful man.
This is how Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy, a handsome but perplexing young gentleman, and where the start of a turbulent relationship plagues “Lizzie” as she struggles to not let her feelings get in the way of her good sense.
What most people do not know is that this work is more than just a 19th century romance story. Austen uses powerful language to tell a tale of independence and reveal the human flaws in readers and her characters alike.
“Part of the charm of this adaptation is that it preserves a lot of Austen’s original language. Another joy is how fast-paced and quick and witty it is,” said Amanda Rountree, director of the Wallace Theatre’s production of “Pride and Prejudice.”
“We all like to imagine ourselves as the character Lizzie. This is intentional on Austen’s part,” Rountree said. “What makes Lizzie so wonderful is that she is flawed. She is not the perfect romantic heroine. She jumps to conclusions about people. You are totally on her side and then you have to sit back and realize that maybe you are just as wrong as she was,” Rountree said.
Some students in the production have long had a special respect for “Pride and Prejudice.”
“It has such a large reputation for being one of the greatest pieces of British literature. Since working on it, I have fallen more in love with the story. I like how Austen crafted these characters so perfectly, helping them really come to life,” said Raquel Estevez, freshman theater and public relations double major.
Estevez plays Kitty Bennet, second to the youngest Bennet sister, and said her favorite part of working on the production was getting to know the cast.
“This cast is full of such wonderful people and I’m so thank- ful to have had the chance to get to know all of them. They all bring di erent attributes to the table, making every rehearsal exciting and fun,” Estevez said.
Rountree said many students have misconceptions about Jane Austen and her works before ever having the chance to experience it.
“A lot of people who have not read Austen tend to pigeon-hole her as merely ‘romantic literature.’ That is a mischaracterization of her and her work,” Rountree said.
“It is certainly 19th-century romance, but what is wonderful about Austen is that it is more about people learning and growing and learning how to change your mind about your first impressions of people.”
Mark McMillan, senior the- ater major, plays Mr. Bennet, the patriarch of the Bennet fam- ily and father to ve unmarried daughters. He said he knew lit- tle about “Pride and Prejudice” before this semester, but learn- ing more has been enlightening.
“All I knew about ‘Pride and Prejudice’ before starting the rehearsal process is that it was extremely popular and that every girl loves Mr. Darcy,” Mc- Millan said.
McMillan said that he has learned to appreciate Austen in a new way throughout the rehearsal of this production.
“My opinion has changed considerably. I love how Jane Austen talks about feminism and how bold she was in doing so, especially considering the social politics of her time,” McMillan said.
Rountree further explained what makes “Pride and Prejudice” so notable.
“It’s a wonderfully rich sto- ry. One of the other things I love about Jane Austen is that she’s just very perceptive of the quirks and qualities of human nature,” Rountree said.
McMillan described the many di erences between him and his character.
“The only thing we really share is gender. This is probably the most different character from myself I’ve ever played,” McMillan said.
“Where I am bombastic and excitable, Mr. Bennet is calm and collected. When I am loving and caring, he is cold and indifferent.”
McMillan added that this challenge has been rewarding for him.
“My favorite part of the rehearsal process has been get- ting to know and understand Mr. Bennet. It has been difficult portraying someone who is so different from me, but the wonderful and insightful direction of our director has been price- less,” McMillan said.
Amanda Gann, who is a sophomore biomedical engi- neering major, saw the play on its opening night.
“I thought (the cast) did a really good job translating ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for a contemporary audience. With the accents and costumes it truly felt like we were in the 19th century right with them,” Gann said.
“Pride and Prejudice” opened Feb. 15 and the last showing is Feb. 23.
The next production at Wallace Theatre this semes- ter, “Barnum” a musical, opens April 5 and ends April 13.