By Anne Flinders, dramaturg
“It’s a distinct pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Brigham Young University’s world premiere production of Melissa Leilani Larson’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice opens this week. Coinciding with opening weekend, we want to introduce you to some of the people behind the scenes and on the stage of this exciting new play. Following is the second part in a series of interviews with cast members and designers whose work you will see when you see the show.
SHANNON HENSLEY, HAIR AND MAKEUP DESIGNER, BYU STUDENT
“You are and always will be the loveliest woman in the room.”
Shannon is from Spring, Texas; a town just north of Houston. She came to BYU as a freshman hoping to be an actress and ended up in the makeup design programs, and she says she loves it!
For Shannon, this play has been all about collaboration. “I think each of the designers had a vision for what the show would look like,” she said, “and it’s been a great experience being part of the collaboration process. Now that it’s finally coming to actualization, it’s nice to see a bit of every designer on the stage. It’s almost like a little piece of each of our hearts is out there, and I can’t wait until everyone can see what I’ve been seeing in my head for the past six months or so.”
Shannon shared with us that something the makeup team tried to create with their designs was the ability to be able to instantly recognize each character as part of a family unit, so that the audience can tell just by looking at each character not only who they are related to, put who they are close to as well. “I think that’s one of the messages that I love from the show; it’s our relationships that help define who we are, for better or for worse. We get to see the journey that many of the characters take as they learn that how they take care of their relationships really defines who they are. Hopefully those who watch the show will walk away thinking about their own relationships, whether it be with family or friends, and how they can improve or perhaps even mend them.”
JACOB SWAIN, MR. COLLINS, BYU STUDENT
“I think it a right thing for a clergyman to be the example for matrimony in his parish.”
Jake is a member of a family of nine from Orem, UT. His dad is an accounting professor and, believe it or not, a lot of Jake’s passion for acting comes from him.
We asked Jake, “For you, what has the journey of this play entailed so far?” Here is what he shared with us about the journey of creating the character of Mr. Collins. “Well, [initially] my Mr. Collins began pretty . . . creepy. Overtly creepy even. As the show has progressed I realized that I was wrong about Mr. Collins. He is just trying his hardest to be debonair and well-spoken and important—all the things that people seem to be so attracted to around him. But he just doesn’t know how to do that. So he falls flat on his face time and time again. And as socially unaware as he sometimes appears, I think he can tell when he’s made a complete fool of himself. And it hurts, perhaps more than anyone would suspect.”
AUSTIN JENSEN, MR. BINGLEY, BYU STUDENT
“Why go to war, when we might have a ball instead?”
Austin is one of five children from Sandy, Utah. He served a mission in the Honduras Comayaguela Mission. Now back in Provo, He is fully submersed in his studies, working on a double major in Sociology and Spanish with a minor in International Development.
Austin shared with us what the journey of this show has entailed for him. He says, “It has been [one] of finding the similarities and differences between me and Mr. Bingley, and then learning to portray all those differences in a way that’s loyal to Bingley’s character. I have been fascinated with exploring an entire culture that is emphasized with dialect and strict social etiquette. It is a blast!”
“One of my greatest fears is unmet potential,” Austin candidly stated. “Lizzy Bennett also fears having a life that is distant from her hopes and dreams. Through the story of each character, [we] see how judging others and passing uninformed judgments causes us to suppress the potential [in] other people: our family members, our loved ones and our friends.” For Austin, an important message the audience can take away is this: “I hope that people can see how Mr. Bingley and Jane strive to live life with sincerity. They act upon personal feeling to direct their actions. They are good examples to the other characters, but more so to the audience. “Plus,” he adds, “Bingley is just a gentleman! We need more gentlemen in the world.”
AUBREY REYNOLDS, JANE BENNETT, BYU STUDENT
“She’s an angel. I couldn’t conceive of one more—beautiful.”
Aubrey is from Dallas, Texas. “Born and raised – a true Texan. I came to BYU four years ago to pursue a BFA in Acting and I am graduating in April! Yay!”
“Acting is my true passion,” Aubrey told us. “I love it and when I’m not in the theatre I’m at the movie theater watching films. I’m a little obsessed with movies and hope to be in them someday soon.” We asked her if she has any hobbies or interests outside her passion for acting. “I love backpacking and exploring nature. I am like a sunflower and am so drawn to the sunlight. Other than that, I love to play the piano and sing and read, and among other things I bake a rather good pecan pie.”
When asked where she finds a message in the play that she might share with others, Aubrey said, “What I like about Jane is she doesn’t go searching for anything. She has no grand expectations, and is always true to herself.” The most important message she takes away personally is this: “Look for the joy and love within people, and true joy and love will find you. Don’t succumb to what people might say, or even the prejudices of others. Love yourself no matter what happens and keep faith in those around you – it’ll all work out in the end!”
PEARL CORRY, MARY BENNET, BYU STUDENT
“We would love to hear a reading from Proverbs, should you care to—”
Pearl is from Honolulu, Hawai’i, and is in her second semester at BYU. “I enjoy throwing paint around, taking public transport, writing poetry, eating kale salad, listening to Philip Glass, and spending time with my family.” Pearl is an art major. “But,” she says, “I am hopelessly in love with the theatre and am excited to find ways to combine the two in the future. Both are such great modes of communication.”
We asked Pearl about her experience as a freshman in a main stage Brigham Young University production. She was effervescent in her joy because of this journey. “I cannot think on my involvement in this play without a deep sense of gratitude. My fellow cast members are an endless source of inspiration. The production crew works SO hard! They are the epitome of teamwork. I am grateful to my character, Mary, for allowing me to step into her shoes. I am amazed at how much I learn about her every day. And the more I learn about her, the more I learn about myself.”
Of the messages in Pride and Prejudice Pearl states: I love the way this play deals with the juxtaposition of one’s own ideals and the real-life occurrences that often challenge them. Every character must deal with this reality—from Mrs. Bennet to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, from Georgiana to Mr. Collins. Change is indeed the very essence of life. (I’m sure that’s in one of Mr. Fordyce’s sermons somewhere.)”
Be sure to get your tickets soon; they are going fast!