Jane Austen's tale of romance, reputation is recreated for the stage 

The University of Oklahoma School of Drama and University Theatre present "Pride and Prejudice," a play based on Jane Austen's beloved novel.

A classic English tale of romance, "Pride and Prejudice" tells the story Elizabeth Bennet and her journey of self-discovery and love in a world where birth determines status, while reputations prove more valuable than money.

Much of the story focuses on the romance between Elizabeth and the honorable, but proud nobleman, Mr. Darcy, and how the pair learns to look beyond their misunderstandings and faulty first impressions to truly understand each other.

Originally published in 1813, "Pride and Prejudice" was Austen's second novel and would go on to become the most popular of her books, spawning numerous adaptations for stage, screen and even literary sequels written by other authors decades later. Working from a recent adaptation by Jon Jory, this version of "Pride and Prejudice" first premiered in 2005 and represents a significant departure from other stage productions.

"It makes no attempt to hide that it's a play based on a book," said Matt Byrd, dramaturge for OU's production. "The characters step out of the scenes all the time and give the narration."

The result is an adaptation that, while still condensing the story from the rather lengthy novel, provides a much more literary experience for the audience. As a literary and historical consultant for OU's production, Byrd said he had a great experience working with director Judith Midyett Pender, citing her knowledge of the period and love of the material for much of the play's success.

"She's made my job so easy, because she knows these things already," Byrd said. "Its super-picky things that I have to point out, like when she had a guy bowing in a certain way that would have been considered clumsy at the time. She does really appreciate the information and what it does for her and the actors. We are trying to keep the play as true as possible to what the fans of Jane Austen would want to see."

Byrd believes that the play is still relevant today.

"Even though that group of people and that idea of gentility and class doesn't exist anymore, we still navigate social systems and encounter specific roles, customs and manners in our lives today even if they aren't as prescriptive as they were back then," he said. "Jane was a shy critic, but a critic nonetheless, of some of the customs of her day, and we can appreciate and identify with Elizabeth's frustrations and struggles."

The romance between Darcy and Elizabeth is still the strongest touchstone for modern audiences, both for the emotional resonance and because audiences all have to confront their own assumptions and misconceptions about other people. The idea that two people can overcome such obstacles, subduing their own pride and prejudice in the pursuit of love, has attracted people to this piece for almost 200 years, and it will no doubt continue to endure for generations to come. 

"?Eric Webb

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