The University of Lynchburg’s theatre department will present its take on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” Thursday, February 20, through Sunday, February, 23, in Dillard Theatre at the Dillard Fine Arts Center.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, available via Etix, are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (60+), and $5 for students, faculty, and staff.
Lynchburg’s production of “Pride and Prejudice” was adapted by Kate Hamill, who is known for her theatrical adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. “Hamill’s adaptations are popular in the theatre scene right now for taking dramatic novels and making them contemporary in thought as theatrical works,” Jeff Wittman, the play’s director and theatre department chair, said.
This version will emphasize the comedy and absurdity of the original work that arises when contemporary society collides with the Regency era, a period of English history that ran from the late 1700s to early 1800s.
“The comedy, mixed within the strict principles and norms of the Regency period, creates a roller-coaster ride of fun,” Wittman said. “Sometimes, being in love can be silly, ridiculous, and even absurd.”
That comedic take is what prompted Timothy McFadden ’22 to audition for the show. “Having it be an altered story made me a lot more excited,” McFadden, who plays George Wickham, said. “It really piqued my interest and I think it will appeal to a wider audience than the original would. I think the audience will really enjoy the comedy, as well.”
Wittman pointed out how the “rituals and games of love” from the Regency period resemble 2020. He said the play reflects how we might see our own dreams, hopes, fears, and vulnerabilities as we enter a large global society, along with how we may find acceptance of all cultures and relationships.
He likened male protagonist Darcy to a young “Silicon Valley-esque” millionaire, saying, “When you compare Darcy with these forward-thinking men, you expect a certain type of person with strong opinions — perhaps too many, or he doesn’t accept the opinions of others.
“Darcy has to grow to understand that he’s not always right and that he should try to see deeper into the souls of people. Darcys were flawed then and they’re flawed now.”
Wittman went on to say that just as Darcys are flawed, so are Lizzys — by not accepting that they are wrong and prejudiced toward seeing the good in people. “We had Lizzys then and certainly Lizzys now finding their voice and the courage to speak up in 2020,” he said of the play’s female protagonist. “She is from the Regency period but also is a clear parallel to a contemporary woman in 2020.”
Austen’s novels often explore themes of love, hypocrisy, and absurdity in our relationships with friends and family. “I think our audience might identify well with these issues and with seeing how far we’ve come or not come,” Wittman said. “Can we move beyond the status, money, and importance of lineage that run through the Regency period? How do these attitudes still affect the contemporary society?”
The show is fast-paced, moving quickly from location to location. “It’s very energetic and we have both cast and crew working on changing scenes rather quickly,” stage manager Kelly Nesser ’23 said. “Our costume directors, scene designers, choreographers, and our lighting directors all work very hard to put this showcase of the games we play in love onto the stage.”
The cast and crew have been working since the recent J-Term, perfecting their British accents, making sound cues and prop lists, and planning choreography for the production. “It’s been really fun to see the whole production grow,” Nesser said. “We came a week before classes started and we didn’t have much [time].
“To see it come from that point to now has been really fun and cool. I’m very glad to have my fellow stage managers, Paige Baugher and Sam Lipert, there to help me, as they really help me a lot back there.”
Wittman said he, too, was proud of the students who have made their way from the studio stage, with its student-run productions, to the main stage in Dillard. One of these students, Katie Yost ’22, said, “I really love the entirety of the cast. We all have a lot of fun together. We have a lot of inside jokes that we share both on and off stage.”
Wittman agreed. “It’s just amazing and almost overwhelming in terms of how exciting it all is,” he said.
For more information, call 434.544.8349.