This holiday season, Main Street Theatre is giving the community the gift of comedy, wit and class, with the plays “Miss Bennet and The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” via live, staged readings on Zoom. Written by acclaimed playwright Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon as a continuation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, these two-leveled stories of the Pemberley household are sure to bring a bit of cheer back into an otherwise anxious Christmas and tickle the fancy of anyone who can enjoy a fast-paced conversation and quick-witted humor.
“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” takes place two years after the end of “Pride and Prejudice” on the ground floor of the Pemberley estate, while “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” takes place in the kitchen beneath the stairs. The beauty in the performances lies in the lively contrast between the lives of the servants and masters, and how closely they intertwine despite their social differences.
For anyone worried that these sequels won’t hold up to the original flavor of the classic story, director Robin Robinson said that it won’t be a problem.
“These are two special plays because of their rich, well-thought-out relation to the fan-favorite characters and settings of Jane Austen.” said Robinson. “Any lover of Austen’s literary classics would find these two spin-offs to fit right into the same world. Their setting around Christmas time simply augments the heart, and magnifies the joyous ‘happy-ending’ feel that one might expect of an Austen tale.”
Actress Christina Austin Lopez said she can’t wait for the audience to see their newest adaption.
“I am so excited to play a Jane Austen character and bring her to life,” said Lopez. “I hope to honor the legacy of Jane Austen, while also bringing new and fresh elements to her.”
High Class, Low Class – Still a Family
Between the drama of the Bennet sisters’ love lives, and the servant’s scrambling to manage scandals both above and below stairs, this story proves that family isn’t about status; it’s about care. Especially during Christmas.
“To me, Bennet and Wickham focuses on family,” said Robinson. “It shows that sometimes family may have conflicts and families don’t always agree with one another, but it shows us when we really need support that our family will be there for us. Of course, it also talks about love and encourages us to not settle for what might look like is a good match due to social standings or financial status.”
Lopez agreed that the story was most of all about family.
“The stories really show that family will always have your back,” said Lopez. “No matter how different the sisters are and how many quarrels they may get into, they will always stick up for one another and love each other. I think one of the main messages of both stories is to cherish and love the people you call family. Both stories leave you feeling hopeful, something we all need right now.”
Behind the Scenes
As is the new standard for theatrical shows this year, “Miss Bennet” and “The Wickhams” will be performing via live staged readings on Zoom. It’s a new experience for everyone, but new can mean exciting.
“It has been so fun to navigate this difference of energy and what it takes to act on Zoom,” said Lopez. “There are a lot of technical elements that I never really thought of in live theatre before, like turning off the camera/mic when you’re off stage, making sure the Wi-Fi is good where you are, and many other little things like that. It has been so fun though, and I am excited to see what it will feel like on performance days with the audience there.”
Robinson said that putting a production together on Zoom is a challenge, but she thinks the readings will offer a novel holiday experience to the audience. Also, she’s proud of her cast for adapting to the screen so well.
“I think the audience will have the opportunity to really hear the words of the play,” Robinson said. “An exciting part of this is that since the actors are so close to the camera, the audience will get to experience every nuance and expression the actors portray. In a way, this really showcases the actors in a different way.”
While all of this may be new, the cast has high hopes for the production.
“I think that the audience will enjoy the shows, that they will laugh and have what I call a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ when they see love and romance in action,” said Robinson.
Lopez said that she hopes that Main Street’s perseverance will show the audience that theater is still alive and kicking.
“I want to show the audience first and foremost that theater isn’t dead. We artists aren’t going anywhere! I hope they enjoy the show and tell others about it, and that they are driven to cherish their families a little more, especially during these difficult times!”
The readings will be performed live on Zoom on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” will be performed Dec. 11-13, while “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” will be performed Dec. 18-20. Tickets for all the offerings are free. Visit mainstreettheater.com for all the details, or email [email protected] with any questions.
Photo courtesy of Main Street Theater