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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Down Under Austen

For Janeites, the highlight of this month’s online social calendar was the Jane Austen Society of North America’s first-ever virtual conference, which took place October 9-11. And now comes word that next month will have its own opportunity for online Austen celebration: the one-day Austen Con, sponsored by 24 Carrot Productions, a theater company in Melbourne, Australia.

Austen Con, which was held in person in 2018 and 2019, features some of the now-becoming-standard offerings of online Austen festivals: talks by scholars and fans about Austen’s work and the times she lived in, hands-on workshops on everything from bonnet-trimming to Regency cookery, and access to an array of merchants hawking Austenesque clothing, jewelry, art, and accessories.

Along with these come some less familiar choices: an “Austen-twisted cabaret and burlesque,” an improv performance based on Austenian characters, and an Austen-themed escape room that you can tackle either alone or with friends.

"There are a lot of similarities between Austen’s life and some of our lockdown/iso experiences at the moment," Sharmini Kumar, 24 Carrot’s artistic director, told the Australian entertainment website Scenestr. "We’re all trying to find ways to entertain ourselves. I love fan conventions, and I love the real mix of things that go into them -- fan art, merchandise, meeting other fans. I wanted to do something for Austen fans that captured that -- the community, the fun, the thoughtfulness."

In Australia’s eastern time zone, Austen Con runs from 9 am to 5 pm on November 7, which means that Americans who want to experience the event live will have to log on sixteen hours earlier: 5 pm on November 6 through 1 am on November 7, for East Coast residents. If that’s inconvenient for you, Austen Con’s offerings will remain available for an additional forty-eight hours after their initial airing.

It all sounds like a lot of fun, and the price is an ultra-reasonable $20 Australian (about $14 for Americans). Time to tie on your bonnet and saddle up the kangaroo. . .

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