Anna-Catherine Kueng ~ Assistant Editor
The University of Lynchburg theatre department will present “Pride and Prejudice: Not your ordinary Jane Austen!” on Feb. 20, 21, and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Dillard Theatre.
According to Jeff Wittman, professor and chair of theatre, “Our concept for the play (acting, dance and design) is that we build our courage for the possibility of love. We are honoring what we love about Jane Austen’s novel but looking for new and surprising things throughout the play. We are emphasizing the comedy and absurdity in the play for a roller coaster ride of fun. As characters and as an audience, we also see how our own dreams, hopes, and fears can run up against societal restrictions.”
Addy Weaver, who is playing Lady Catherine de Bourugh and Miss Bingley said, “Pride and Prejudice is all about assessing one’s own assumptions and prejudices of others, while simultaneously compromising one’s pride. In order for the characters to understand what it truly means to love someone, they must sacrifice their own worldviews. After all, this is how to become fulfilled.”
Weaver also said, “I am particularly excited about these roles because it is a challenge to make the British dialect/diction different when I switch from one character to another. In both characters, though, there is the compulsion to conform to the ‘high’ society, where one adheres to tradition and has imposing expectations for how the world is supposed to be and how women should act. They are also not afraid to step on toes to achieve those expectations, especially if it means Mr. Darcy’s love for Miss Bingley and money for Lady Catherine.”
Abby Burnett, who is playing the role of Mrs. Bennet, said, “The play is a comedy about the Bennet daughters and how they are trying to navigate love, pride, and hard choices, all while not bringing shame to the family. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are trying to marry them off, because if Mr. Bennet dies before one can find a husband, their house and property will be taken from them and given to a living male relative. They meet Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Collins on the way and hilarity ensues.”
This is Burnett’s first show at the University of Lynchburg. She explained, “I came out to auditions. I have had a passion for theatre for most of my life, and being part of a production is something I love very much.”
For Weaver, she has been in three mainstage productions at the university, including “Into The Woods,” “Anything Goes,” and “These Shining Lives,” as well as a number of smaller productions. She explained, “It is my last semester here at Lynchburg, and I knew that I would regret it if I did not [audition]. After all, it is an iconic show by an extremely respected writer. I auditioned because I simply need to make art feel alive.”
Though the play is based on Jane Austen’s novel, it will have unique elements that go beyond the text.
Weaver said, “I think we have some additions to the show that are going to defy the audience’s expectations, which I am super excited about and am trying so hard not to spoil. I love surprising people, and the audience is going to leave the show with a lot to think about. People should come see Pride and Prejudice because it is not going to be what people assume it will be. We are having a ton of fun and adding a slew of comedic elements while staying true to the meaning of Pride and Prejudice. Also, we are working really hard and would appreciate sharing our art with everyone!”
As far as what the aforementioned students are excited about, Burnett said, “[I am looking forward to] making people laugh. With the world being in its current state, we could all use a little more laughter.”
Weaver elaborated, “I also am excited to hang out more with the cast! There is no feeling like bonding over being in a show together. It is a different kind of friendship and love. They are all certainly talented and I learn a lot from being around them.”
“I think people should come see this show because the people behind it have worked so incredibly hard to put it together. It is a fun show that is full of laughter, surprises, and twists. It is truly a show like no other I have been a part of,” said Burnett.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (60+), and $5 for students. They can be purchased online at www.Etix.com, by visiting the box office outside Dillard Theatre, or calling (434) 544-8380.