Archer Upper School presented “Jane Austen’s Emma,” an adaptation of the novel by Martin Millar and Doon Mackichan, on Mar 7, 2014. “Emma” is a story of wealth, love, and arrogance set in upper class Britain.
Upon entering the Blackbox, the melodious sound of a harpsichord filled the air and sent the audience back to the late eighteenth century.
Fearless Olivia Bagg ‘15 played Emma; she portrayed Emma’s charm and arrogance perfectly. Throughout the performance, she captured Emma’s wittiness and beauty as she inhabited the roles of the matchmaker, the doting daughter, the oblivious lover, and the best friend.
To add a postmodern twist to the story, Carolyn Zaccaro ‘14 played the illustrious Jane Austen herself, a character who writes the play within the play: Emma’s story. Jane’s jubilant and vivacious nieces follow every bit of her story eagerly, even entering in as side characters during the exciting bits.
The nieces were enthusiastically portrayed by Kathleen Kelso ‘14, Gabriella Weltman ‘17, Talia Natoli ‘17, and Auveen Dezgaran ‘15. The addition of these characters helped translate the British humor and complex plot of the novel for a contemporary audience.
Stage manager Karinne Robbins ‘16 described the nature of the play as “a very fast-paced performance filled with hilarious moments and relationships.” She added, “There was never a dull moment, and I think that was why Ms. Poverstein chose it; something was always happening, and the audience was constantly engaged in the plot.”
The Oracle asked Robbins about the playwrights’ decision to include these extra characters in the play:
“I think [Miller and Mackichan] added Jane Austen and her nieces into the play because of the interesting relationships authors have to their characters. We wanted to incorporate a lot of that connection into our show so that the story became more than Emma’s journey. It became Jane Austen’s journey, too.”
The incorporation of Jane and her nieces added a silliness to Emma’s bold demeanor. The nieces inserted themselves into the story, comically whispering over Emma’s shoulder. They had a particular bias for the coupling of Emma and Mr. Knightly and awaited anxiously for the moment they would be together.
The audience laughed along with Emma’s charm and wit and cringed when she embarrassed herself in front of her beloved Mr. Knightly, who was spectacularly performed by Anika Ramlo ‘17.
The audience cheered for the union of Emma and Mr. Knightly and laughed out loud at Mrs. Bate’s (Haley Cohen ’16) incessant talking and ignorance. The easily relatable and intriguing characters and the light, droll tone that occupied each scene helped to make “Emma” an undeniable success.
The Regency period music and bright backdrops set the mood for a light comedy set in eighteenth century Britain. The actors and tech crew spun an unusual but pleasing twist on Jane Austen’s original story.
Calling it “Emma: Not Your Mama’s Jane Austen,” the girls on the stage and behind the curtain altered each character to fit into a very witty and relatable experience.
The featured image was shot and provided by Daniel In. To view more of his photos of the play, click here.