Swine Palace Continues 20th Anniversary Season with Timeless Romance of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” Feb. 1-19
BATON ROUGE – Swine Palace continues its 20th Anniversary Season by inviting audiences to fall in love all over again with a beautiful new stage version of Jane Austen’s beloved 1813 classic novel, “Pride & Prejudice,” with performances held Feb. 1-19 in the Claude L. Shaver Theatre, located in the Music & Dramatic Arts Building at LSU.
Finding a husband is hardly Elizabeth Bennet’s most urgent priority. But with four sisters, an overzealous match-making mother, and a string of unsuitable suitors, it’s difficult to escape the subject. When the independent-minded Elizabeth meets the handsome but enigmatic Mr. Darcy, she is determined not to let her feelings triumph over her own good sense – but the truth turns out to be slipperier than it seems.
This refreshingly fast-paced and engaging new adaptation written by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan of New York’s Pearl Theatre Company will delight in all its lush period style.
Swine Palace’s production of “Pride & Prejudice” features three real-life married couples. Mr. Darcy, played by Drew Battles, is married to Joanna Battles, playing Elizabeth Bennet. Drew and Joanna have been married for five years, as they met as theatre students in graduate school. Mr. & Mrs. Bennet are played by real-life married couple, Tom Anderson and Cristine McMurdo-Wallis, respectively. Patrons of Swine Palace will remember Cristine as Violet from the recent production of “August: Osage County.” Tom, a veteran thespian, comes back to the stage after 17 years and will rekindle the on-stage magic with Cristine, as they have not appeared together in 18 years when they previously performed in the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives of Windsor.” Sir William Lucas played by Greg Leute, plays opposite his wife, Bacot Wright – who was last seen as Mattie Fae in “August: Osage County – portraying Lady Lucas.
“‘Pride & Prejudice’ is one of the world’s greatest stories of romance that captures the joys and troubles of couples at every conceivable point of progress, from first meetings and impulsive young loves, through the confused beginnings of married lives and on to long enduring relationships filled with both passions and problems,” said director George Judy, who serves as Swine Palace’s artistic director. “Having three couples in our production that have encountered their own relationships along that path will provide wonderful perspective and fun as well as experience in just what sparks their partner’s enthusiasm and excitement, not to mention what drives them crazy. The line between reality and fiction is likely to get blurred a bit as we see real relationships under the weight of fictional pressures explode into life that will delight and enlighten our audience and no doubt the actors themselves.”
Audiences will delight in the design elements of the production, such as the Regency costumes work by the actors, the creative use of props and the intricate sound design aspects.
“Sewing and costuming are hand-crafted art forms,” costume designer Corey Globke said. “Costumes shape the audience’s initial impressions of each character. The costumes for ‘Pride & Prejudice’ are a challenge because they do not only need to create that initial character impression, but they also have to accurately depict a historical era and also support the original Jane Austen text. I feel that it is vital for the costumes to create a fully realized Regency world that allows the audience to escape yet still emotionally attach to the characters. It is also very important for me that the costumes feel like the actual clothing the characters would wear. The more believable the costumes are, the more swept into the world the audience will be.”
This process takes time. Globke said, “Each costume has a variety of levels of detail and construction that factor into the final creation of the physical garment. It takes between 16-20 hours to fully complete a dress. Therefore, I anticipate a minimum of 200 hours to fully build, alter, and execute all of the costumes.”
Props Master Jim Bussolati added that he felt the most challenging piece in this show for him will be the Piano Forte.
“We are going to place a keyboard in a fake shell of a replica,” he said. “The research for the design came from our scenic designer, Ken George. Ken gave me design images of four different ones. I will have to make it all come together. There will also have to be access to the speakers that will be placed in the hollow chamber, as well as a way to run power to both the keyboard and the speakers.”
Sound Designer Tyler Kieffer elaborated on his concept for sound in the production.
“It’s easy to compartmentalize people by their outward behavior, but the simplicity of what lies underneath is far more beautiful and intriguing,” he said. “Music from the [Regency] era had somewhat of a peak in style and complexity, which I compared to people, more specifically characters in the play. A few measures take us in one direction then suddenly it stops, or crescendos into a different key. By placing speakers in the rear of the house and catwalks I can help to connect the audience aurally by enveloping them in the sounds of the characters’ reality. Just as we think we know all the verses to someone’s personality, they bang out a new melody that throws us for a loop.”
Swine Palace’s production of “Pride & Prejudice” is underwritten by Campus Federal, Kean’s Fine Dry Cleaners, WRKF 89.3FM, Manda Fine Meats and McGlinchey Stafford PLLC.
Tickets range from $15 to $28, and can be obtained from the Music & Dramatic Arts Box Office by calling 225-578-3527 or online at www.swinepalace.org. Tickets can also be purchased in person at box office locations in the LSU Student Union Theatre, the Music & Dramatic Arts Building and the Reilly Theatre. On performance nights, tickets will be on sale at the Music & Dramatic Arts Box Office.
A “pay what you can” performance of “Pride & Prejudice” will be held on Feb. 1, with a preview performance on Feb. 2 and the official opening performance on Feb. 3, each beginning at 7:30 p.m. Subsequent 7:30 p.m. performance will also take place Feb. 4, Feb. 8-11 and Feb. 16-18. Matinee performances will be held on Feb. 5, Feb. 12 and Feb. 19, beginning at 2 p.m. each afternoon.
Founded in 1992, Swine Palace operates with a dual mission to provide South Louisiana with high-quality, professional productions of classical and contemporary theatre with an emphasis on plays exploring issues of social equity while also serving as a training ground for students in LSU’s M.F.A. Professional Actor and Technical/Design Training Programs. For 20 seasons, Swine Palace has produced more than 68 productions, including many regional and world premieres, in Baton Rouge. Under the leadership of Swine Palace Managing Director Kristin Sosnowsky and Swine Palace Artistic Director George Judy, Swine Palace mounts three to four productions each season, and employs five to 12 guest actors, directors, and designers from across the country. Recent guest artists have included Ping Chong, Deb Alley, Adam Rapp, Steve Young, Mia Katigbak, Clayton Corzatte, Adolphus Ward and Lance Nichols. Swine Palace is a recipient organization of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Community Fund for the Arts, Louisiana Division of the Arts, The Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.