The Department of Theatre & New Dance is bringing a production of Jane Austen’s literary classic “Pride & Prejudice” to the stage.
The show opens Friday, Feb. 24 in the University Theatre.
Like a five-year-long earworm, bringing to life Austen’s work and its timeless display of female empowerment and bravado was nagging at director Linda Bisesti.
“Jane Austen was very outspoken as a woman during 1812, especially within the society she lived,” says Bisesti, the head of acting and voice coach for the Cal Poly Pomona theatre department. “I was drawn to that – breaking the boundaries of what is expected from a woman in the Regency Period.”
So when it came time to look for the right script, Bisesti landed on one penned by Yale School of Drama Professor Catherine Sheehy, who premiered the work in 2007.
“I think the script authentically connects and celebrates the novel,” Bisesti says of Sheehy’s work. “It celebrates the discovery of the self, and even the sport of gossip – which was so profoundly connected to class and lineage, and getting ahead in society.”
Austen’s novel – and indeed the script that Bisesti and more than 20 Cal Poly Pomona students will bring to life – is the story of Elizabeth Bennet, who is prejudiced toward the prideful Mr. Darcy when the two cross paths and a romance spurs between them.
The story, however, is more than an extravagant tale of romance. Touching upon themes such as women’s expected and changing roles in society and class structure, Bisesti says, “Pride and Prejudice” retains its value across more than 200 years of history.
“I think it has a lot of vibrations in society today because women’s roles are being redefined,” she says. “We’re still fighting the same fight in terms of misogynist expectations. In a similar way that Elizabeth is trying to break the glass ceiling of her time, we just had a woman run for president and break the glass ceiling of our time.”
Ultimately, Bisesti hopes the Department of Theatre and New Dance’s production will help audience members understand the concept of class and how critical its role is in society – particularly the society that inspired the novel.
“The Bennets are middle class, and if a man doesn’t marry one of those girls, their opportunity to move forward is severely challenged,” Bisesti says. “That was a reality of the time. It wasn’t a novel or romantic kind of thing to get married.”
Bisesti says she also hopes viewers will consider the story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy on a more human level.
“I want audiences to walk away with an appreciation for someone who’s able to admit that they’re wrong and embrace the opportunity to change,” Bisesti says.
“Pride and Prejudice” runs at 8 p.m. Feb. 24, 25 and March 2, 3, 4. A matinee showing runs at 2 p.m. on March 5. University Theatre is located in Building 25. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students, senior citizens, faculty and staff. They can be purchased online or at the Box Office. For more information, call (909) 869-3929 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.