Guest post from Isabel Snowden!

Isabel Snowden is the director of An Evening at Home with the Austens, and as we get ready to go on tour, she’s written us a guest blog. Enjoy!

As well as running Ruffled Umbrella, I am privileged enough to work at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire. One of my favourite tasks there is shutting down the cottage at the end of the day.  While it is always lovely closing the shutters and ‘tucking in’ the house for the night, I felt so much more poignant doing so last week as it was the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. It struck me as slightly odd but, as I was closing each of the rooms it felt like I was saying goodbye to her, someone whom I had never met and had lived her life centuries before I even began mine. That is one of the beguiling things about Jane Austen, you feel as if you know her. Through the snippets of information left through her novels and correspondence and the recollections of family members, fans of Jane Austen are able to piece together a person they would like to know. People identify with different facets of her personality, the eternal romantic, the modernising feminist or the quick witted satirist but, there is always something for her fans to connect with.

As I was contemplating the mature Jane Austen at the end of her sadly too short life it got me thinking about our upcoming tour and the enjoyment of introducing our audience to a side of Jane Austen they may not know about. The concept of ‘An Evening at Home with the Austens’ is to explore the very early writings of this creative genius and to see her experiment with different styles and scenarios.   In her juvenilia Jane Austen parodies the popular writers of the time, pokes fun at various monarchs and puts her own satirical spin on society’s mores. You can glimpse certain parallels from her novels and see how she started to develop her own style. As well as enjoying stories they may not be familiar with, I hope the audience take pleasure in seeing a young Jane Austen full of energy and enthusiasm, and have a jolly good laugh along with her and her family.

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Back in rehearsals!

Yesterday was our first rehearsal since our first performance of An Evening at Home with the Austens in April. And it went really well! Remembering lines was much easier than expected – most of them stuck, and I don’t think it’ll take too many goings over to make them all back again! 

We started the day with a chat about what bits of the show we’d like to improve, about how the crowdfunding campaigns doing, and about the publicity for the tour. Those latter are obviously important, but not the main focus of the day. 

The sections that we felt needed improving – a change in costume to represent one of the male characters I play(a riding crop being exchanged for the more obvious coat) which also had the added benefit of making a joke work better, some work on the women playing men – it won’t ever be as funny as a man making a woman, but the change should make it funnier, some character work on Mary Stanhope(for me at my request) and some jigging around of entrances and exits to make some of the clunkier bits clearer.

We then did a fairly low energy to mark it through, make sure we remembered our lines(which we mostly did) and when we were supposed to come on and off stage and where different bits of costume and props come(which I mostly didn’t) We then had a further discussion of other bits worth going over, then broke for lunch. 

Non-related to the show, but we did have a rather entertaining lunch, due to the neighbours next door to where we were rehearsing having various screaming matches. Not at us thankfully, but it did rather liven up our lunch break! I was then disappointed by what I thought were bluberries when I’d packed them into my lunch that morning, only to discover they were olives when I opened the tupperware 😦 

Anyway, so back to the show! After lunch we fine tuned the areas we’d picked out before lunch, and went over Sir William Montague which needed a bit of going over after the run, we then had (surprisingly) time to do another run! Which went much better, so we are generally feeling very confident about the whole thing.

Our next rehearsal is on Friday, and my homework before then is to watch the DVD of the show, and see if I think of any other sections which could do with the changes. My next post will be about that, and I find the always slightly painful experience of watching myself on film.

Phoebe 🙂

Re-Learning Lines

Ah, line learning. The one thing non-actors always say after a show is “How do you remember all those lines?” There’s not really a trick to it – if there was I could save a lot of time! Its just repetition, repetition, repetition. As a friend I was doing a play with a year or so ago reminded me, when I said how glad I was we didn’t have to revise for exams when studying “What do you think learning lines is?”

Re-learning lines is slightly different, as it ideally, shouldn’t take as long. Audition monologues in particular tend to stick – whether that’s a good thing, as you may lose the freshness of them – is another issue.  So ideally, this process shouldn’t take to long. I had my first sit down today to look at my big monologue that starts the second half – this part of the play is based on Austen’s “Three Sisters” and I play Mary Stanhope. The monologue is lifted from a letter so it works well on stage and as a nice opener to the second act(Hats off to Isabel Snowden, who edited the script)

Anyway, so back to lines. So far, so good! Its interesting learning something that wasn’t written to be spoken aloud, as the rhythm is slightly different. Shakespeare – while it has the difficulty of an older form of English – the iambic pentameter means I find it quite simple. Jane Austen’s language – not so much. I’ve mentioned on an earlier blog about how the punctuation has caused an issue. I am still getting my head around it, but second time around, its coming easier! 

Anyone else have experience performing Austen? Would love to hear about it if you have!

Phoebe 🙂

Costume and body shapes

Quite a few blogs ago, I shared some pictures of the cast at Jane Austen’s House Museum, when we were performing scenes from Pride and Prejudice.

We had lovely, accurate costumes loaned to us – however that does not mean it was easy! I very soon realised that my body shape is not particularly suited to the empire lines of Georgian and Regenct dress. As you can see in this photo: https://rediscoveringausten.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/pride-and-prejudice-pictures-again/ the style of my dress(on the right) and Izzy’s dress(on the left) is quite different. Izzy’s is the kind of dress you would be used to – undo the buttons, put it on, and do up the buttons. Mine was rather more complicated! 

I would step into the skirt which was fairly simple. Then there was a flat – almost like you get on the top of dungarees – which would button on to the shoulders of the section with the sleeves. Similar to dungarees this then left a gap at either side. The section at the sides then needs to get held together to be tied, and then attach the flap – and I am slowly realizing this is very hard to describe as a blog post! Needless to say, I understand why people in Regency times would have needed help to get dressed! And I don’t think they were particular designed for women who are that little bit curvier! I will try and get a photo of the dress with all the different sections up at some point so you can see what I mean. I hope you’re able to make some sense of what I’ve written so far 🙂

Phoebe

Jane Austen and Punctuation

I love Jane Austen. And of course she is an amazingly talented writer and – as described on the flyer for our production – a creative genius.

However, punctuation was not really her thing. Both during our first read through of the script and when I was trying to learn the lines it caused quite a stumbling block. It took quite a few rereads and lots of scribbles to figure out how to say some of the sentences in a way that made sense!

I don’t have any more to say on this subject now – just a little thought I had while working on the script for “An Evening at Home with the Austens” 🙂

Phoebe x