Pride and Prejudice has been performed many many times on stage by various companies in plenty of different styles. However, on April 21st it enjoyed its premiere as a ballet. Performed by the American Repertory Ballet at McCarter Theatre Centre in Princeton, New Jersey, Pride and Prejudice has been choreographed by the ARB’s Artistic Director Douglas Martin, and the production features ARB dancers performing to live accompaniment by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Devlin.
Douglas Martin, an Austen fan, spent years on this adaptation and it shows in its level of attention to detail. For example, the dancing is set to music by Ignaz Pleyel, a popular composer during Austen’s lifetime who is largely unknown today, and it takes pains to look at the detailed relationship of four of the Bennet sisters, as well as that between Darcy and Lizzy.
According to Martin it’s not a typical ballet either. The choreography echoes that of some of the popular dances of the time, including the minuet, though Martin has adapted a few moves and made them “more balletic.” It also includes quick set and costume changes (some costume changes have to be completed in 20 seconds!) and the action is driven by acting and not just by dances.
At the Jane Austen News we can see how the romance of Pride and Prejudice would recommend itself to becoming a ballet. We just wish we could have been there to see it!
Unveiling Jane’s £10 Note
Although it won’t enter general circulation until September this year (just in time for Bath’s Jane Austen Festival!), the official unveiling of the new Jane Austen ten pound note has been announced. It’s due to take place on July the 18th on the anniversary of the date of her death in Winchester Cathedral, where Jane is buried.
Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said in a statement that “Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature. As Austen joins Adam Smith, Boulton and Watt, and Winston Churchill, our notes will celebrate a diverse range of individuals who have contributed in a wide range of fields.”
Below is a video released by the Bank of England which goes into a bit more detail about their decision to put Jane on the banknote.
Stage adaptations of Jane Austen have become increasingly popular in recent years (we look at one such adaptation later on in this week’s Jane Austen News). We’ve had one-woman shows, Jane Austen musicals, Jane Austen improv, but one we personally haven’t come across before is one of Jane Austen’s novels staged as a ballet. However Ballet Fantastique will be doing just that. Their first show of the 2016-17 season is bringing back a 2012 premiere, Pride and Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet.
“We’re taking the classic Jane Austen novel and remixing it with 1920s Paris,” said their marketing director Katey Finley in a recent interview. “A live band will be wearing snazzy suits and playing live period jazz along with great choreography, like doing The Charleston en pointe.”
How fantastic is that?!
A Book Of One’s Own
Orion recently bought the novel Perception by Terri Fletcher, which will chronicle the life of Mary Bennet, the third Bennet sister, after Jane, Elizabeth and Lydia leave Longbourne. In the past all of the Bennet sisters have at one time or another seen the spotlight and had new adventures written about them, but a recent blog post by Alicia Kort has got us thinking on the subject of literary women whose stories deserve further exploration. What other strong female characters in literature deserve their own novels but as of yet haven’t been given one?
Alicia suggests; Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series), Dasiy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby), Teresa Agnes (The Maze Runner), and Sam Dutton (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). These are all great suggestions, but at the Jane Austen News we can think of more than just the Bennet sisters who could fill a book of their own. The tale of Mrs Norris’s first love anyone?
Sense and Sensibility Too Sensible?
The New York theatre company Bedlam is staging a new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, but rather than focusing primarily on the romance of the story, director and co-founder Eric Tucker wants to bring out the comedy within the novel that he feels is all too often overlooked.
To do this Tucker is making the play more minimalist and modern. He’s getting rid of detailed backdrops and putting wheels on all of the furniture so it can be easily moved, and used; when a young woman is fleeing social judgment she scoots away on a chair, only to be pursued by the gossips on their own mobile seating. Tucker uses physical theatre and a brisk pace to bring out the wit that he feels can be lost in a lot of adaptations.
A lot of the movie versions of Austen tamp down the comedy and make the stories period-piece melodrama. I didn’t want that. I wanted it to be raw and modern. One of the reviews said our ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was Dickensian. I liked that. Our production in New York was very bawdy, and it surprised people who thought they didn’t like Austen. But she was pretty wicked in her letters — very gossipy, saying the most awful things about people.
At the Jane Austen News we wish them the best of luck with their new production. Jane had so much wit and so many comedic moments in her novels and this is not always remembered; we think she’d approve.
What Made Colin Firth Reject Mark Darcy
With the recent UK release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, Colin Firth has been giving quite a few interviews to help promote the film, and, of course, in a fair few of them the subject of Mr Darcy comes up. One that caught our eye was an interview he gave to Eric Eisenberg for CinemaBlend.com. In the interview Firth talks about how, even following such amazing success with the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice where he played a modern traditional Darcy, he originally turned down the role of Mark Darcy who he plays in the Bridget Jones films.
I started off thinking there was no way in with that character. I originally turned it down, because I didn’t think… how do you play this guy who doesn’t do anything really? He just sort of stands around and scowls and looks imperious. And I thought, ‘Well, sure, I can do that, but will anyone give a damn? It’s not appealing!
Happily he kept the role in mind and eventually came round to the idea thinking:
‘Well, maybe there’s something fun in that. You don’t have to be charming. You just have to be incredibly distant and dislikable.’ And I thought, ‘That’s pretty liberating!’ So that was an incentive.
We didn’t know he’d turned the role down at first, but we’re glad he changed his mind! It’s hard to imagine the Bridget Jones films or the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice being such a success without him.
Unleashing Mr Darcy
And from one Mr Darcy to another.
Another modern film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has been made and just released by Hallmark.
In this version of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Scott (Cindy Busby) decides to show her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a dog show in New York, but she clashes with the arrogant judge Donovan Darcy (Ryan Paevey). In true Jane Austen fashion, Elizabeth learns that Mr. Darcy is far more kind and interesting than she ever imagined.
In this video Ryan Paevey talks about his views on Darcy, and just why his Darcy finds Lizzy so attractive and irritating. Some clips from the film and more details can be found here.
Love and Friendship
There’s less than a week to go before Whit Stillman’s film adaptation of Love and Friendship is released on DVD in the UK, and we can’t wait! It’s due out on Monday 26th September and we have the date marked on our calendar. Though if you’re a U.S. Jane Austen fan you don’t have to wait because the DVD came out in the U.S. on September 6th. We’re a little jealous…
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The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (German: Nussknacker und Mausekönig) is a story written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann, a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror, composer, music critic, and caricaturist.
In the tale, young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas père‘s adaptation of the story into the ballet The Nutcracker, which became one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions, and perhaps the most popular ballet in the world.
Hoffmann’s story begins on Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. Marie, seven years old, and her brother Fritz, eight, sit outside the parlor speculating about what kind of present their godfather Drosselmeier, who is a clockmaker and inventor, has made for them. They are at last allowed into the parlor, where they receive many splendid gifts, including Drosselmeier’s, which turns out to be a clockwork castle with mechanical people moving about inside it. However, as the mechanical people can only do the same thing over and over without variation, the children quickly tire of it. At this point, Marie notices a Nutcracker doll, and asks whom he belongs to. Her father tells her that he belongs to all of them, but that since she is so fond of him she will be his special caretaker. Marie, her sister Louise, and her brother Fritz pass the Nutcracker among them, cracking nuts, until Fritz tries to crack a nut that is too big and hard, and the Nutcracker’s jaw breaks. Marie, upset, takes the Nutcracker away and bandages him with a ribbon from her dress.
When it is time for bed, the children put their Christmas gifts away in the special cupboard where they keep their toys. Fritz and Louise go up to bed, but Marie begs to be allowed to stay with Nutcracker a while longer, and she is allowed to do so. She puts Nutcracker to bed and tells him that Drosselmeier will fix his jaw as good as new. At this, the Nutcracker’s face seems momentarily to come alive, and Marie is frightened, but she then decides it was only her imagination.
The grandfather clock begins to chime, and Marie believes she sees Drosselmeier sitting on top of it, preventing it from striking. Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King. Marie, startled, slips and puts her elbow through the glass door of the toy cupboard. The dolls in the cupboard come alive and begin to move, Nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie’s ribbon on as a token. The battle at first goes to the dolls, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice. Marie, seeing Nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, takes off her shoe and throws it at the Mouse King, then faints.
Marie wakes the next morning with her arm bandaged and tries to tell her parents about the battle between the mice and the dolls, but they do not believe her, thinking that she has had a fever dream caused by the wound she sustained from the broken glass. Drosselmeier soon arrives with the Nutcracker, whose jaw has been fixed, and tells Marie the story of Princess Pirlipat and Madam Mouserinks, who is also known as the Queen of the Mice, which explains how Nutcrackers came to be and why they look the way they do.
The Queen of the Mice tricked Pirlipat’s mother into allowing her and her children to gobble up the lard that was supposed to go into the sausage that the King was to eat at dinner that evening. The King, enraged at the Mouse Queen for spoiling his supper and upsetting his wife, had his court inventor, whose name happens to be Drosselmeier, create traps for the Mouse Queen and her children.
The Mouse Queen, angered at the death of her children, swore that she would take revenge on the King’s daughter, Pirlipat. Pirlipat’s mother surrounded her with cats which were supposed to be kept awake by being constantly stroked, however inevitably the nurses who stroked the cats fell asleep and the Mouse Queen magically turned the infant Pirlipat ugly, giving her a huge head, a wide grinning mouth and a cottony beard, like a nutcracker. The King blamed Drosselmeier and gave him four weeks to find a cure. At the end of four weeks, Drosselmeier had no cure but went to his friend, the court astrologer.
They read Pirlipat’s horoscope and told the King that the only way to cure her was to have her eat the nut Crackatook (Krakatuk), which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling. The King sent Drosselmeier and the astrologer out to look for the nut and the young man, charging them on pain of death not to return until they had found them.
The two men journeyed for many years without finding either the nut or the man, until finally they returned home and found the nut in a small shop. The man who had never been shaved and never worn boots turned out to be Drosselmeier’s own nephew. The King, once the nut had been found, promised his daughter’s hand to whoever could crack the nut. Many men broke their teeth on the nut before Drosselmeier’s nephew finally appeared. He cracked the nut easily and handed it to the princess, who swallowed it and immediately became beautiful again, but Drosselmeier’s nephew, on his seventh backward step, trod on the Queen of the Mice and stumbled, and the curse fell on him, giving him a large head, wide grinning mouth and cottony beard; in short, making him a Nutcracker. The ungrateful Princess, seeing how ugly Drosselmeier’s nephew had become, refused to marry him and banished him from the castle.
Marie, while she recuperates from her wound, hears the King of the Mice whispering to her in the middle of the night, threatening to bite Nutcracker to pieces unless she gives him her sweets and her dolls. For Nutcracker’s sake, Marie sacrifices her things, but the Mouse King wants more and more and finally Nutcracker tells Marie that if she will just get him a sword, he (the Nutcracker) will finish him off. Marie asks Fritz for a sword for Nutcracker, and he gives her the sword of one of his toy hussars. The next night, Nutcracker comes into Marie’s room bearing the Mouse King’s seven crowns, and takes her away with him to the doll kingdom, where Marie sees many wonderful things. She eventually falls asleep in the Nutcracker’s palace and is brought back home. She tries to tell her mother what happened, but again she is not believed, even when she shows her parents the seven crowns, and she is forbidden to speak of her “dreams” anymore.
As Marie sits in front of the toy cabinet one day, looking at Nutcracker and thinking about all the wondrous things that happened, she can’t keep silent anymore and swears to the Nutcracker that if he were ever really real she would never behave as Princess Pirlipat behaved, and she would love him whatever he looked like. At this, there is a bang and she falls off the chair. Her mother comes in to tell her that godfather Drosselmeier has arrived with his young nephew. Drosselmeier’s nephew takes Marie aside and tells her that by swearing that she would love him in spite of his looks, she broke the curse on him and made him handsome again. He asks her to marry him. She accepts, and in a year and a day he comes for her and takes her away to the Doll Kingdom, where she is crowned queen and eventually marries the Prince.