Wa-Hi stages 'Pride and Prejudice'

From British accents to set changes, the production has huge challenges for students, the director said.

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Walla Walla High School's drama department will present Jon Jory's 2005 adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen's classic novel.

The play opens 7 p.m. Thursday at the Wa-Hi auditorium.

In this "sweeping" adaptation, the main curtain never closes, as the set is changed right before the audience. Doing so presents one of the "huge challenges of production," director Brian Senter said.

"The crew and the actors have to work in harmony to get it together as we go. And the actors have to do third-person narration to transition us into the next scene."

As opposed to being distracting for the audience, the intermediate action is a window into how the machinations of the play work, he added.

The production uses 33 actors in 21 speaking parts. British dialect was called for, and his drama students have become proficient in what Senter calls "BBC lite."

Even without the linguistic work out, "Pride and Prejudice" is an incredibly complex story to present, he said. "The syntax is so different, and the sentences are all over the place. I think we do a very good job of making it clear, however."

The Wa-Hi students are intrigued by a story of such rife unfairness, like needing a male heir to inherit family land, Senter said. "The kids really keyed into that. The injustice perks their ears up right away. They don't see why people would submit themselves to that."

Used to America in the here and now, they wanted to "get it right" in the play, he said.

He knew "Pride and Prejudice" would be a lot for American kids to swallow, along with all the obstacles in the production. Just costuming alone took the dedication of some 20 seamstresses, Senter said.

To set the stage, he used reverse psychology. "I told them its way too hard; they shouldn't even be doing this play. Which, of course, makes them stick their little necks straight into the air to prove me wrong."

The play contains the original live accompaniment created by local composer and music educator Kristin Vining-Stouffer. She composed the underscore and pieces for the many ball scenes.

Some scenes are accompanied by quartets in the wings, elevating the performance "to a whole other level," Senter said.

If you go

Tickets are $6 for students and $12 for adults. The show will run 7 p.m. tonight, Friday, Saturday and Nov. 18 and 19. A matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 20.

The box office is open 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the auditorium lobby. Call 526-8613 during those hours to reserve tickets, or e-mail bsenter@wwps.org.

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