Pride, Prejudice, and the Human Experience

Pride and Prejudice was adapted for the stage and it might just be the perfect example of humanity.

Getting caught in an unexpected rain can be a rich experience if you allow it—you just need the right perspective. There are few powers in the world that can change a human’s outlook, but on that concise list, art is near the top. A fine-tuned piece of art, a message that rings true to the human experience, and the talent to perform it can alter – for the better – any simpleton meandering through life.

Pride and Prejudice was the piece of art. And I was the simpleton.

Two of our Theatre alums (Kristi Meyers ’13 & Ryan Clemens ’10), a current Theatre student (Jahmeel Powers ’18) and Law student (Rachel Fobb ’18), and a current Theatre adjunct (April Poland) were cast in the Virginia Stage Company’s latest production of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Performances ran from Jan. 17- Feb. 4; it seemed worthy enough to check out.

The Wells Theatre Stage, Norfolk, VA Feb. 2018. (Joél Casanova)

The Wells Theatre Stage, Norfolk, VA, Feb. 2018. (Joél Casanova)

While waiting for the production to start, I decided to entertain myself with the playbill I was handed at the entrance. Note to self—I reflected as my hands stayed busy with the playbill—don’t go to a play alone. I hadn’t bought the tickets with enough time to ask someone to come with me, so there I was a 20-something year old senior amid a horde of 60-something year old… seniors. The playbill was my attempt to make the most of it.

A phrase caught my eye: “Jane Austen’s works were some of the first novels published that focused on the everyday lives of everyday people, rather than the fantastic (and unbelievable) adventures commonly disseminated at the time.” That intrigued me as a storyteller because my art highlights the intimate details of regular life. Before I had time for a second thought, the lights dimmed. The director comes out, says a few words, thanks a few sponsors, and the audience is transported into the world of Longbourd, courtship, and Elizabeth Bennet.

The playbill had not lied. What happened on stage was not the conjuring’s of the imagination, but instead the physical representation of an eye witness account. The action, dialogue, and idiosyncrasies of each character reflected life to the point of eeriness. It was hard to think that the actors before me walked around in jeans and t-shirts, texting their friends on smartphones. What strengthened the suspension of disbelief for me is that every character was immensely layered.

By layered, I mean that they were not 2D beings with cyclical reasoning: wanting to do something because they want to do it. Average people have dark pasts, lasting scars, and precarious futures. Interactions with others are motivated by of one of these, if not a mix of all three; as the layers peel away, a person’s soul is bared and we can know who they are deeply. The characters in Pride and Prejudice mimicked this reality precisely and by the end of the emotional roller coaster of a story, it did what art does best: changed the perspective of the audience.

Walking out with the swarm of patrons, I was surprised to see that it had started to rain. I pulled my hood on and hunched my shoulders but decided not to complain like I usually would have. I decided that instead, I’d enjoy this as one more moment in this crazy intricate story we call life.

Joél Casanova is a Staff Writer for The Daily Runner.