This is Book-It's fourth presentation of Jane Austen's work: for those not familar with her novels, what makes Austen a good fit for Book-It?
Not only did Jane Austen create delightfully complicated characters and charming, compelling stories but her language is what I really treasure. Book-It allows this sparkling language to SING in a way a traditional adaptation of it might not. We not only get to hear the famous dialogue but the character’s inner thoughts, descriptions and narrations in Jane Austen’s voice. It’s delicious.
What was the first Jane Austen novel you read? And where were you at the time?
I first read Pride And Prejudice on a plane with my parents when I was eight years old. My mother had her old copy and I’d finished my own book. I underlined all of the words I didn’t understand. I obviously didn’t understand much as I remember wondering why Lizzie didn’t end up marrying the nice Mr. Wickham. I read it almost every year after that to the present.
Austen is the champion of the small but telling phrase -- and her fans love to quote her! As the adapter of her work, how do you decide what to keep and what must be cut?
As a fan, it is a daunting task. I will, undoubtedly, omit someone’s favorite line or phrase and I sincerely apologize for that right now. In fact, I had to cut my own favorite line because I’ve attempted to get to, what I believe, is the root of the story and allow that and the characters to drive it forward. Thus, some entire scenes or characters even are cut…along with those famous phrases. I use the specific language that helps me tell this story in a reasonable amount of time as, sadly, we don’t have ten hours to perform this play. We are lucky though that with the Book-It style I get to retain so much more of her language than might be expected.
For Sense and Sensibility, what do you think are the plot points and/or scenes that are key to the story -- or simply too marvelous to give up?
There are so many imperative, marvelous scenes but I’ll focus on one that excites me: Willoughby’s explanation scene at the end of the play. It is a scene often cut from adaptations of this piece. I imagine adapters feel it steers away from the story of the sisters. I’d also guess that perhaps we just don’t want to forgive and the scene complicates our feelings about him. The scene is highly dramatic and powerful and, ultimately, I believe it gives insight into both the sisters which is why I’ve kept it.
What can't you do on the stage at Book-It?
If we are fully engaged with our imaginations… we can do anything. I’ve seen people swim, ride horses, drive cars, cross a country in a day on a train. I’ve even seen a stampede of cattle on the Book-It stage.
What Austen novel would you like to see next on the Book-It stage?
I think Northanger Abbey is our best bet. And, in all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of Fanny Price (the heroine of Mansfield Park). Northanger Abbey is a very different Austen than we’ve previously seen as it is her send up of the Gothic novel. I think it could be really, really silly fun.
Finally, which of Austen’s heroines do you indentify with: sensible Elinor or romantic Marianne?
I identify with both ladies a little bit. I’m way too prudent and practical to fully be a Marianne but then I do work in the arts…which is unreasonable and romantic of me.