Directing class creates adaptations of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”
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For their directing class final, theatre fanatics Cierra Denning, Kat Delaney, Leah Monica, and Anastasia Heaton are in the process of adapting, writing, and directing a few scenes from Jane Austen’s last finished book, “Persuasion.” “Persuasion” tells the comedic story of 27-year-old Anne Elliot, a woman living in England whose family decides to rent out parts of their house due to financial hardships beginning in the early 1800s. Anne, in true Jane Austen fashion, finds herself in awkward yet charming romantic encounters with one of the tenants staying in her home. These four Westmont students and alumni are individually working on bringing various sections from the book to life in character-centered stage performances. Denning and Monica both have been drawing inspiration from playwright Kate Hamill, who adapted the version of “Pride and Prejudice” that Westmont produced in October.
Second-year Theatre Arts major Cierra Denning talks about how some directors have decided to make their versions of the scenes more realistic and “dialogue-heavy,” while others have written more dreamlike scripts that “develop to completion” during rehearsals. Denning looks up to Hamill, who maintained the integrity of each character in her adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” while making the story more accessible and the audience able to identify with classic, beloved characters.
Recent Westmont graduate Leah Monica has been auditing John Blondell’s directing class and is also creating her own adaptation of “Persuasion.” During this process, she has had to determine which aspects of the plot she wants to focus on and which parts can be omitted. Generally, Monica hopes to convey the emotions and relationships of the characters rather than focus solely on the plot. In her opinion, short segments of a play should focus more on the internal makeup of each individual character rather than trying to condense the full plot into a few short scenes. Monica plans on keeping the “flowery-ness” of the original regency-era text, but also plans on bringing her own spin on the overall aesthetic of the show with interesting costumes and other twists.
Both directors described the auditioning process as exciting and fun. For this production, the directors held auditions that consisted of a monologue and participation in improv games. Although each director looked for varying characteristics in each actor and actress they would cast, all of them looked for those who take risks, are malleable in their responses and actions, and bring passionate energy into the cast.
These directors encourage anyone who has an interest and passion for theatre to try to direct a show at some point, perhaps at the Fringe Festival this coming April. Director Kat Delaney hinted that there may be parts of their production of “Persuasion” that take place around campus or other unexpected places. The performances will take place on Saturday, December 8, 2018 in the morning.