On Thursday, October 25, Northanger Abbey opens at Strosacker Theatre. The production incorporates a cast of over 20 students, costumes in 1800s style and sets mimicking the era of Jane Austen, all of which help the novel come to life.
Scott Mackenzie, director of Northanger Abbey, also adapted the original Austen novel into the play. “[Austen] has sort of this ‘I’ve got the whole world figured out’ attitude and she’s a little snarky about things. If you read it, it makes you laugh out loud,” said Mackenzie.
The play itself centers around the life of 17-year-old Catherine Morland as she navigates the social realm of Bath, England. “It’s the story of a young woman who is coming into the world and leaving behind some of the childhood innocence as she negotiates the social world in Bath,” said Mackenzie. “[Catherine] finds out who her friends are, who seemed to be friends, who truly are friends [and] who are not friends at all.”
“It has a little something for everybody in it. It’s a romance, it’s a comedy, it’s got its dramatic moments, it’s got its spots of horror, and with that combination, you can find something you like for anyone,” said Elizabeth Pechota (‘22).
Catherine is portrayed by Pechota, who has participated in theatre from a young age. “I have been dreaming of a lead role,” said Pechota. “I’m very, very, very happy and I feel like my hard work has paid off.”
The cast, crew and tech members have spent the past two months preparing for the show. “We have a very short schedule and too much to do,” said props master Hannah Gibbs (‘21). “Normally I am in the shop for six hours a week, but the closer we get to tech [week], the longer I’m in the shop.”
To aid the cast with embodying people from the 1800s, Mackenzie brought in a woman from the Jane Austen Society. “She came and talked to us about the etiquette and the mannerisms of the time and it was just really fascinating to learn about how different everything is from the way it is now,” said Pechota.
A large part of the first act are ballroom dance scenes, which Rachel Blome (‘20) particularly enjoys. “It kind of gets us in the mood, I think, for the time period,” said Blome. “I haven’t done a show in this time period before, so it’s been interesting to learn the mannerisms and just see how they lived because it’s very different than how we are today.”
Difficulties with the play included learning the dialect and behavioral cues. “The play is written in kind of a Jane Austen-type language, and most of the words directly come from the novel itself,” said Pechota.
“So it’s more so learning how to speak in a different way and how you would interact with characters in a Jane Austen setting.”
After Northanger Abbey, Pechota plans to audition for future productions. She encouraged other students to also try acting. “A lot of people consider acting as playing pretend, but it’s a little bit more than that. It’s more stepping into someone else’s reality and really trying to see things through their eyes,” said Pechota.
Mackenzie asserted that theatre is not only about acting. “If you have any interest at all in an artistic outlet, there’s a place of theatre for you. Not just actors, not just technicians, but it’s all of us together.”
Blome was enthusiastic about opening the play. “I’m just really excited to put on this show. It’s a great period piece, we’ve all worked really hard on it, and everyone’s really excited to share our hard work.”
Tickets for Northanger Abbey are available at the Box Office.