by Mikayla Nicholson
A woman paces back and forth on stage practicing her lines. A group of men practice their steps for the ballroom scenes. Several people scatter to move props and furniture behind stage. The director looks over her notes. And then Cowles Auditorium fell quiet as the cast and crew of “Pride and Prejudice” prepared to rehearse the first act of their play.
Brooke Kiener, assistant theatre professor and director, pays enormous attention to every detail. Details included everything from small things such as chair placement and the correct pronunciation of “to” and “and,” to larger things like the importance of always staying in character.
The entire cast has a good chemistry and work well together on stage. Senior Joshua Watkins brings some of his Cool Whip comedic chops to the role of the aloof Mr. Collins, nicely offsetting senior Andrew Rowland’s charming and arrogant Mr. Wickham. The characters feel “lived in” and no doubt the cast has been working extremely hard to make them feel like three-dimensional characters.
Senior Emily Shick, who plays the iconic role of Elizabeth Bennet, said she wanted to take a different approach to the role.
“First of all, I didn’t watch any of the movies,” Shick said. “I did not want to let that influence me because I didn’t want to cut and paste. I started by reading the script and then reading the book. In a play you can see what a character is acting, and in a book you can see what a character is thinking and what drives them.”
Shick got to play alongside her best friend who plays Jane. Their closeness shows every time the two are together on stage.
“Jane is one of my best friends. Our reactions on stage were really genuine because we are really close,” Shick said.
Elizabeth Bennet is a strong, witty female character and Shick wanted to play her that way.
“I think the most important thing is that she’s flawed and that she recognizes that in the end,” Shick said.
Weston Whitener, a freshman political science major, did not even plan on auditioning for the role of Mr. Darcy.
“I came into it trying to play Mr. Collins or Mr. Bennet, or trying to get it in at all,” Whitener said. “I would have been happy being an extra. Frankly, I didn’t even think I would get in.”
Whitener said he wanted to take a different approach to the iconic role as well.
“I didn’t want Darcy to be dull. I’m hoping to give if something. Less of a sadness and more of a strength,” Whitener said.
Whitener plays Mr. Darcy with a quick wit and intelligence, in addition to the brooding presence and rigidness that audiences may have come to expect from his character.
“It’s really just trying to dig into the text and the play,” Whitener said. “He thinks very highly of himself and then Elizabeth crashes into his world and changes everything that he thought that he knew.”
It was exciting to watch all the actors and characters bounce off each other, particular in the faster-pace Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy scenes. Whitener said that both proposal scenes are very demanding for him because they call for a complete range of emotion.
“It’s Elizabeth and Darcy verbally fencing,” Whitener said. “I attacked the scene because that’s the iconic scene where he’s complete pride and she’s complete prejudice and they just collide. It’s so much fun for me.”
Whitener said he is lucky to be working with this group of cast and crew.
“I’m very blessed to be surrounded by people who are so good at what they do. It kind of forces me to up my game a little bit too,” Whitener said. “You have to show that you deserve it. But they’re just all so phenomenal.”
Contact Mikayla Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org