“Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberley” will be at Trustus Theatre from Dec. 6 to 21. According to Chad Henderson, Trustus Theatre's artistic director, the play is “a wonderfully uplifting holiday rom-com.”
Following Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” “Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberley” is a holiday spin on the 19th century classic. The play follows Mary Bennet, Elizabeth Bennet’s sister, during Christmastime with her family. When an unannounced guest arrives, Mary’s world is turned upside down.
“Audiences will get warm fuzzies with this production, which is just what we need at the holidays,” Henderson said in an email interview. “It’s fun to watch the characters continue the story we all know and love, and specifically to watch Mary navigate the sometimes-confusing waters of romance.”
The play is being directed by recent USC graduate Libby Hawkins. Hawkins has an M.F.A. in acting from USC's Department of Theatre and Dance and has appeared in Trustus’ adaptation of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” This will be Hawkins' first time directing at Trustus, and she has been working hard on this play in particular since August.
Martha Hearn will play the lead, Mary Bennet. According to Hawkins, she is nothing short of delightful.
“Not only is she hilarious, she's also found the heart of Mary and has created a character who is multifaceted and authentic,” Hawkins said in an email interview.
Hawkins is also the dialect coach for the show. Her preparation includes making the actors feel like they are ready to speak in the proper accent from the Regency period.
To make the show modern, Hawkins has incorporated contemporary holiday-themed music, Henderson said. Other elements, such as the costume and set, will remain relevant to the time period.
“It was important for me to have a solid foundation of the world in which we're playing,” Hawkins said.
Costumes are being designed by Janine McCabe, a visiting guest artist from the Department of Theatre and Dance at the College of Charleston. McCabe is also the resident designer for PURE Theatre, located in Charleston.
Typically, Trustus produces plays that lean more towards the "abstract or contemporary" side of theater, but Henderson said “Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberley” has "been a lot of fun" for the production crew to research.
“It has been a joy to watch this cast and production team examine the world of Jane Austen, and bring something very tangible from that universe to a live stage experience," Henderson said.
One takeaway the play will give audiences is the reminder of love during the holiday season.
“Things are tough in the world right now, so I hope that they laugh hard and feel joyful and walk away with a renewed sense of love and appreciation for each other,” Hawkins said.
Henderson also commented on the play's main theme of love.
“In the end, Miss Bennet is about not giving up on love,” Henderson said. “It can find us in the most unexpected places, and it can be magical.”