Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 5 2015 02:00PM

Best Jane Austen news of the week (at least potentially): Shooting is about to start on director Whit Stillman’s movie of Lady Susan, starring Kate Beckinsale as the predatory Lady Susan Vernon, Chloe Sevigny as her poisonous friend Alicia Johnson, and Stephen Fry as Alicia’s hapless older husband.


The project has inexplicably been called Love & Friendship, presumably to mess with the heads of Janeites knowledgeable enough to recognize a juvenilia title when they see it. As far as I’m aware, it’s the first filmed dramatization of Austen’s novella, which itself is sui generis in her oeuvre: her only substantial epistolary story, and the only story whose protagonist is a villain. Seldom, very seldom, do we get a truly brand new Austen project, and I for one am pretty excited.


Whit Stillman is a director I have mixed feelings about. I very much enjoyed Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco and Metropolitan (which some people seem to think is a Mansfield Park update, though I don’t really agree), but I’m still mourning the ninety-nine minutes of my life spent watching the relentlessly whimsical, pretty much intolerable Damsels in Distress.


At his best, Stillman is a great deadpan observer of Species WASP. At his worst, he’s. . . pretty much intolerable. Here’s hoping that Austen brings out his best.




By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 22 2014 01:00PM

Holy scheduling conflict, Batman!


Just a couple of short-ish train rides from my home, a delightful-sounding Janeite event will take place next month: a reading of a new one-act comedy by Lynn Marie Macy called “Carlton House, Jane Austen and the Prince Regent.”


Macy is a playwright, actor and director with a Janeite bent. At the 2010 JASNA AGM, during a panel on the glories of Henry Tilney, she read the Catherine Morland part in a scene or two from her Northanger Abbey adaptation. Macy has also adapted Lady Susan and written a Christmas play about Jane Austen’s family.


Macy’s new play will apparently take us to the well-documented day in 1815 when James Stanier Clark, the Prince Regent’s librarian, gave Austen a tour of Carlton House, the Prince’s London home.


That visit gave rise to a short, hilarious correspondence between the pompous, self-satisfied librarian and the slyly witty novelist, who soon after accepted Clark’s offer-you-can’t-refuse suggestion that she dedicate Emma to his royal employer.


It’s great material for a play, and I’m crushed that this performance is being held precisely when I can’t attend: the same weekend as this year’s JASNA AGM in Montreal. I’ll just have to cross my fingers for a future off-off-Broadway production. Meanwhile, if you’re a New York-area Janeite who makes it to the show, do post a review in the Comments!


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