Calvin Theater Company to perform Pride and Prejudice

Photo+courtesy+CTC

Photo courtesy CTC

On April 23-25 and April 30-May 2, Calvin’s Theatre Company will be performing an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

Performing this beloved and endlessly reproduced story is no small feat, as the company prepares to sweep their audience into a whirlwind of Austen’s regency manners, morals, costumes, dance and language.

“The challenge with period drama comes with staying in the period,” said sophomore Jon DeVries, who will be portraying Mr. Darcy. “How you hold yourself, your expressions — it all completely changes.”

In England, circa 1813, emotions were neither public nor dramatic. The cast has been working to convey proper emotions beneath the veneer of an appropriately collected regency exterior. “Even if you are having an incredible argument with someone,” said Director Debra Freeberg, “you have to maintain the formalities.”

Freeberg believes Austen’s story,with it manners and morals, has plenty to say to contemporary audiences.

“Today it’s seen to be OK to be crass, or rude — [these behaviors are] even lauded on television, but this particular period really teaches the importance of ‘social intercourse’ — the proper term in that day — and the importance of face-to-face conversation,” she said.

People today still struggle with maintaining their reputation, especially when we consider the new frontiers of social image online. “The means of communication are different,” said Freeberg, “but the issues are still the same.”

Austen’s story has addressed these issues vividly and memorably for many people. The story remains tirelessly popular. This presents another unique challenge for the Calvin Theatre Company.

Junior Emily Wetzel, who will be playing Elizabeth Bennet, explains, “People tend to have an ownership of Elizabeth. I’ve been working on how to portray a character who so many people love. How do I make her my own? It’s been a challenge.”

However, Wetzel sees new dimensions in the character, “I’m finding she is flawed and she has a lot going on.” Elizabeth feels entitled to a marriage based on deep romance — not a common occurrence in her day. “She feels like she deserves it, and she is a little vain in that way,” said Wetzel.

The cast has also faced some particular challenges in production. Two cast members dropped out, leading to some last minute cast changes. The actors, however, have pulled together and feel confident about the upcoming performance.

“The cast is such a talented, loving and connected group; it’s been a complete joy to work with them. We’ve hit some huge bumps in the road, but the cast has really come together and overcome them,” says DeVries.

The costume shop and set designers have also been overcoming obstacles. This production emphasizes movement. So for the past four months, set designers have been working on four large motorized turntables that work as the stage floor. One of the tables is actually inside another one.

Technical director Steve Haase explains, “These were difficult because we wanted to have something turning on something that is turning. There’s a lot of pieces to this show!”

The costume shop has been hard at work assembling an extensive collection of costumes. “We’ve essentially built the entire show from the ground up,” says costume designer Amanda Ytzen. “The volume has been a challenge, and the detail work in period show is huge.”

From corsets to dance to Austen’s language, Freeberg hopes this production will stay true to the story. “We are trying to tell the story of how these characters move through their world.” Crossing through history into today’s world is an exciting challenge and promises a dynamic, engaging theatrical experience.