It’s a funny time right now for us theater-loving Janeites: Some of our favorite things are still virtual, others are on their way back to pre-pandemic normal. The latest data points:
* The annual Jane Austen Summer Program, usually held live in the vicinity of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, starts today in an all-virtual format. The four-day schedule of lectures, workshops, and discussions centered on Austen’s life and times also includes two Friday night theatrical presentations: an adaptation of the “History of England” that Austen wrote when she was a teenager, and an audio version of Sarah Rose Kearns’ play Manydown.
The three-person play, in which Kearns will perform the role of Cassandra Austen, is a fictionalized recounting of the moment in 1802 when Jane Austen first accepted and then rejected a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, heir to the Manydown estate.
JASP registration closed long ago, but Manydown is going to be available through online platforms later this summer.
* In October, a sendup of Pride and Prejudice featuring an all-female cast will open in London’s West End, the British equivalent of Broadway. Pride and Prejudice (*sort of), first produced in Scotland in 2018, is billed as “a unique and audacious retelling” in which “men, money and microphones will be fought over.” (The show includes interpolated pop numbers, like Carly Simon's "You're So Vain.") The UK national tour was cut short last spring because pandemic, so it’s good to learn that at least one Jane Austen project has survived the plague.
* More than one! Actor/playwright Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Emma, whose premiere at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater was originally scheduled for the extremely unfortunate date of April 2020, is back on the Guthrie’s schedule for the comeback season launching this fall. Hamill is also the author of inventive, madcap versions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, each of which had successful New York runs and long lives in regional theater. Hamill’s new Emma won’t be on at the Guthrie until June 2022, but you can buy tickets starting in September.