Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” demands that the cast of the all-school play portray the intense emotions of unrequited love and the disaster of first impressions within the conservative etiquette of the 19th century.Even tougher, the students will have to deliver this in British dialect.
Throughout rehearsals, Performing Arts Department Head Anne “Coach” Scarborough will be working with the actors to make sure that they all sound like they’re in the same play, which is being directed by drama instructor Gleason Bauer.
At Coach’s first rehearsal with the actors last Friday, she told them that the goal is not necessarily authenticity.
“It’s better for the audience to understand you, than for your dialect to be perfect,” Coach said.
The actors will use IPA – International Phonetics Alphabet – to help them get their pronunciation right. Coach started them off by giving a key of the IPA dictionary, a kind of Rosetta Stone for dialects.
She emphasized that when speaking in a British dialect, it is important to say every consonant separately and distinctly. She had the actors work on a “delicious” line from the play, meaning a line where the words would lose their power in American dialect, but would come across as exaggerated and luscious in a British accent.
“It was a lot of fun working on placing my voice in different parts of my body, and playing with pitches and emphasis. It can completely change the deliverance and meaning of a line,” Allie ’12 said.
Pronunciation can also be physical work. Coach asked them to recite their lines while adding a physical attribute, such as pretending to pinch the line, tickle the line, elbow the line, or crush the line with their foot. The exercise shows the effect your body language has on your voice and expression.
“Let your body do what it wants to,” Coach said.
The play, adapted from the book by Jon Jory, presents challenges beyond the dialect. Director Bauer said she chose it because it’s a real contrast to the two plays put on last year, “The Secret Life of Trees” and “Urine Town.” Both plays were satirical and even somewhat surreal, their themes and language directly rooted towards 21st century concerns. On the other hand, “Pride and Prejudice”is a realistic drama that takes place in the 19th century.
“This play takes place in a very different world. Because of this, the girls will have to learn the mannerisms, dialect and physicality of that time period,” Bauer said.
That includes learning how to move in big, frilly long dresses. They’ll also be doing that on an innovative set being put together by drama instructor Doug Lowry and his Guild Club – one where the audience watches from the stage and the actors perform on the floor of Caswell.
The play will take place Nov. 5 at 3 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in Caswell Hall.
UV Online Audio
Hear a selection of Coach Scarbrough introducing the cast of “Pride and Prejudice” to the art of speaking in dialect.