Miss Elizabeth Bennet

(c)Ben Meadors

Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a 1936 A.A. Milne stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous work, Pride and Prejudice, is now playing in the William Allman Theatre at Baldwin-Wallace College. Miss Elizabeth Bennet is yet another first for Baldwin-Wallace, as this is the first U.S. staging of this play. Miss Elizabeth Bennet will be performed Tuesday-Saturday, April 12-16 at 7:30 pm with a matinée performance Sunday, April 17 at 2:00 pm.

Elizabeth Bennet is one of Jane Austen’s most famous and most endearing heroines. Mr. Darcy has become a literary model for the perfect gentleman. Put the two together, and you get the humor, passion, and romance that are Pride and Prejudice. The play opens in 18th century England. Mrs. Bennet is adamant that she will find husbands for her five daughters. The family has found a suitor for Jane, the oldest. Elizabeth, the second of the five, is next on the list. Finding a husband for her, however, will prove a more difficult task. Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins, the family’s choice. And although, at first, she is not impressed with the dashing Mr. Darcy, she eventually comes around, looks within, and begins to take an interest in him, as Mr. Darcy does her. The rest is history.

There have been numerous adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. From stage to film to various reinterpretations, Pride and Prejudice prevails as one of the most popular novels ever written. And it is, perhaps, one of the most adapted works in English Literature. To date, the novel has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. And Pride and Prejudice continues to be read by people of all ages, all languages, and all backgrounds.

Jane Austen was born in 1775 in Hampshire, England, the seventh of eight children. And although she had a different upbringing and lived a different life from those of Elizabeth, she lived comfortably on the lower fringes of English gentry. Among her many writings, are six completed novels, all classics of English Literature. The first was Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811, followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). Northanger Abbey, her second novel, and Persuasion, her last, were not published until 1817, the year of her death. With such timeless stories and such memorable characters, it is no wonder that people are still captivated by Jane Austen and are still reading her works nearly 200 years after her death.

For me, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is very reminiscent of the Cleveland Play House’s superb rendering of Emma last season. The play is well performed and executed on all levels. And the intimate William Allman Theatre is the perfect venue for the staging of this play with its arena-style seating and thrust stage. Above all, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is an absolutely delightful production. For those who are fans of Jane Austen and her novels, this is a perfect play for you. For those who are not familiar with one of England’s most famous and beloved authors, this is a good time to familiarize yourself with a great classic. And at a very reasonable ticket price of only $10 ($5 for students and seniors), it makes for an affordable night of wonderful theatre.

If you cannot make it to this performance, be sure to keep up with Baldwin-Wallace’s calendar of events (link provided below) and take in another great performance at one of Northeast Ohio’s premier educational institutions. And for those who enjoy classical music, the 79th Annual Bach Festival will take place this weekend, April 15-17, 2011.

Baldwin-Wallace College was founded in 1845 as one of the first colleges in Ohio to admit students regardless of race or gender. Presently, the college has more than 50 areas of academic study that lead to a bachelor’s degree. And it offers master’s programs in both business and education. Miss Elizabeth Bennet is presented through the college’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

The William Allman Theatre is located at 95 East Bagley Road in the Kleist Center for Art & Drama on the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. For more information on Baldwin-Wallace College and for its calendar of events, please visit the college’s website at www.bw.edu/news/calendars.

– Submitted by Christopher Musselman, guest blogger

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