‘Pride and Prejudice’ in Jerusalem

J-Town Playhouse brings Jane Austen’s classic tale of love, money and marriage to the Holy City.

By ARIEL HENDELMAN
December 1, 2015 20:51
THE CAST of the J-Town Playhouse production of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice.’

THE CAST of the J-Town Playhouse production of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice.’. (photo credit: ITA ARBIT)

Jane Austen is the quintessential novelist, author of such classics as Sense and Sensibility and Emma, which have been adapted for the silver screen and stage. The J-town Playhouse is proud to present Jon Jory’s adaptation of Austen’s most celebrated and prolific work, Pride and Prejudice, which will take the stage in Talpiot’s AACI theater from December 3 through December 23. The play’s director, Yael Valier, talks to The Jerusalem Post about finding the perfect cast, her favorite scenes and introducing the classic story to a younger generation.

How did ‘Pride and Prejudice’ come to Jerusalem?

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It’s really thanks to Raphael Poch, who wanted to put it on because the book is a classic and beloved. It’s really worth seeing on stage. So many people love Jane Austen; they’ve read the book a million times, and have seen the BBC series or the 2005 film. A lot of people also wish that their kids would know the book. The younger generation might not read the book, but they will come and see this show. The show very successfully gives over the messages of the book and highlights the themes. It’s faithful to the original. It’s for those reasons that people will want to see it. It’s also fun and there are amazing period costumes. It’ll be a great night out.

Can you describe the casting process?

The casting process was truly a delight! I was extremely fortunate that such talented people came to audition. It actually made choosing quite difficult because I had to turn down some truly talented people, which was hard. But I was spoiled for choice, which is not always the case in such a small acting pool as the Anglo one in Israel, and specifically around Jerusalem. The woman playing Elizabeth, the protagonist of the play, comes from Haifa. She came because she loves Jane Austen, and specifically Pride and Prejudice.

She knows the entire book by heart; she likes to read it out loud to herself in different voices, which is astonishing. When she auditioned, I threw different parts at her and she already had a character for each part.

In general for the cast, it was hard to figure out who would play whom because there many people who could fit different parts.

There are actors playing relatively small parts in this show who are really talented. The person who’s playing Darcy, the lead male, is a ballroom dancing instructor. It’s ironic because one of the fun things about Pride and Prejudice is that there are ball scenes. I was blessed with a really talented cast, which made the whole process really rewarding.

How have rehearsals been going?

Yesterday, we did a run-through that felt like what a run-through should feel like right before opening night. Usually, in rehearsals like that, I feel that we’re not ready and then some kind of magic happens to get us ready. I had been feeling that a little before, but after this rehearsal, I know we are exactly where we should be. That doesn’t happen often! Because the cast is so talented, they’re very quick to absorb direction and to understand a nuance and implement it, which has made directing just a pleasure.

Do you have a favorite scene?

Well... one of the great things about this show is that it has some very funny parts, almost slapstick. There are also some very touching parts. Because of that, choosing a favorite scene is kind of like choosing between apples and oranges. Collins’ proposal to Elizabeth is funny every time I see it in rehearsals. Bingley’s proposal to Jane is touching and sweet every time. I love it every single time. But one of the things that make the play so great is that it’s playing with so many different emotions all at the same time. I think it will keep all audiences happy.

In terms of audience expectation, was it intimidating for you as a director to take on such a classic? I was afraid that I would get audiences full of purists, saying, “Wait, you cut out this scene!” So first of all, it’s not my adaptation.

It’s an adaptation by Jon Jory. I chose this particular stage adaptation out of many because it felt genuine to me. I read about four during my selection process. When I found this one, I chose it because he was very careful with the dialogue. About 90 percent of the dialogue comes straight from the book. It’s also very theatrical. From the opening lines, you feel that this is a play, and not an attempt to tell the book. The audience is directly addressed. That makes it easier for the purists to swallow. Jon Jory was respectful to Jane Austen, and didn’t use language that was anachronistic. He really took the book and made it into a beautiful stage adaptation without trying to insert his own messages.

If you had one message that you hope the audience gets from watching this play, what would it be?

That’s a difficult question because there are so many! The beauty of the book is that there are multiple messages that can appeal to multiple people, and they are still relevant today. There are even messages to be gained from the characters who are supposed to be foiled. I actually love Charlotte, and Jane, even though she’s not as developed as Elizabeth.

One line that moved me, which is not even a central line, is one that Elizabeth says to Jane. “Until I have your goodness, I can never be as happy as you.” That resonates for me because I don’t think that Jane is simply naive. She works on her midot, and on becoming who she is. That brings someone the tranquility that constitutes deep happiness.

For more information or to purchase tickets for ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ go to www.aaci.org.il.


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