It was the first dress rehearsal day on November 4th for the cast of “Pride and Prejudice,” and the air buzzed with both excitement and trepidation. Luckily, my friend and I got the chance to witness the behind-the-scenes madness that ensues before the beginning of a play. As avid fans of Jane Austen and the traditions of English Romanticism we were beyond excited. As soon as we entered the stage area, actors ran around trying to perfect their costumes, conversations between actors were said in an aristocratic British accent, and last minute adjustments to the props were being made.
In the middle of all this organized madness was the director of the play, Casi Wilkerson. Her enthusiasm and fervor for the play shined through the chaos, as we were warmly greeted and introduced to the cast. I got the opportunity to speak with Casi on the phone and I was enlightened on her passion for the performing arts. She has been directing plays for the past 23 years and has performed professionally on the stage for 16 years. She was first the education director at Lakewood Playhouse but soon went on to direct plays and has been doing so for the past three years.
I finally went on to ask why she had decided to direct “Pride and Prejudice” among an array of choices and she instantly replied, “I love literature.” Casi went on to say how she wanted to focus on the literature of “Pride and Prejudice” which was why the set was quite minimalistic and featured only tables and chairs. Like myself, she also “loves the era” in which the novel was based and she truly wanted to “honor Jane Austen” by focusing on the complex relationships in the novel rather than produce a cinematic based production. She said “it was a challenge” to transform such a dense and lengthy novel into a 2-hour and 30-minute play, but she is certainly proud of this achievement.
Lakewood Playhouse is a quaint establishment but this makes for an amazing experience because the seats actually surround the stage itself. Therefore, the audience is literally immersed in the middle of all the action. The intimate atmosphere makes for a viewing that could not be achieved in a large theater. Although, we did not have enough time to watch the entire play, I was impressed by what I saw. The actors were truly talented and remained immersed in their characters even when the stage lights were turned off. This passion is what drives throngs of other passionate drama lovers to be a part of the communal appreciation for the performing arts.
“Pride and Prejudice” is now playing at the Lakewood Playhouse until December 1st. Do not miss a chance to re-live this wonderful adaptation of Jane Austen’s most acclaimed novel.