Audiences will get a peak behind the curtain at William Woods University's upcoming production of "Pride and Prejudice."
A set piece painted to resemble hardwood parquet flooring will represent the biggest change to convention — when the actors step foot on the painted floor, they step into character. When not in a scene, the actors will remain in view as onlookers.
"The actors never leave the stage, they only leave the character space," William Woods University Theatre Department artistic director Joe Potter said.
Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dulany Auditorium on the Fulton campus, with more shows at the same time Friday and Saturday. An additional matinee performance is at 2 p.m. Saturday.
"Part of it is you do this and go, what was I thinking? It's not going to work," director Melissa Alpers-Springer said, with a laugh. "What I'm counting on is that the audience will focus on the action, but again it's also cool to be able to see what's going on backstage a bit too."
The production represents a non-traditional retelling of Jane Austen's classic novel by Kate Hamill.
"It is a different take on the good ol' Mr. Darcy and the gang from the original 'Pride and Prejudice,'" Potter said. "It's a much more theatrical-style production — there's still the period costumes, but there's very little scenery."
To add to the spectacle, many of the actors play multiple characters, moving quickly to change costumes and personas.
"Part of the fun is to see those fast changes right in front," Alpers-Springer said. "Justin Queen plays Mr. Bennet and Charlotte Lucas, his daughter's friend. And then Trevor Pruitt, who is a freshman, he plays three characters — Mr. Collins, Mr. Wickham and Miss Bingley."
This style of theater, with all of the action happening on stage, is new to Alpers-Springer as well as her cast.
"If you think it's kind of crazy, it is," Potter said. "It adds fun to the storytelling, and when we boil it down to the bottom line, that's what we're doing — telling a story."
The challenge of this storytelling method is one of the reasons the department chose this play.
"This is academic theater," Potter said. "We always look at not only the entertainment value but also what the context of the storytelling is and how that pushes the storyteller."
Alpers-Springer said she first heard of the play from one of the cast members.
"Emma Cunningham, who plays Lizzie, saw it in Kansas City and she told me it was great," Alpers-Springer said. "I've been doing some really serious things, and I was looking for something that was more comic."
The farcical treatment of the source material is another inventive aspect of the production.
"The humor isn't usually brought to the forefront in these types of productions," Alpers-Springer said, referencing traditional period plays. "Even reading the book, people sometimes miss the comedy."
Potter, who has been faithfully attending rehearsals, said the cast is right on schedule.
"We're ready to have an audience come see us and have a good time," Potter said. "Who doesn't love a good romance story?"
Tickets cost $11 for adults, $8 for William Woods faculty and staff, $7 for seniors older than 62 and $5 for children.