I grew up surrounded by all things Jane Austen. She died in my hometown of Winchester in the county of Hampshire in England, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral. She spent much of her life in Hampshire, and lived her last eight years in Chawton, near Winchester. The cottage is a museum in her honor.
I love Jane Austen, but it wasn’t always so. She was my mother’s favorite author, and Pride and Prejudice was her favorite book; that alone was almost enough for me to dislike her. Then I was forced to read Persuasion for my ‘A’ levels and that clinched it. I didn’t want to. Ugh. Jane Austen. Ugh. And because I was a silly 17-year-old, I didn’t read it, at least, not properly. Somehow, I managed to pass the exam with a good grade — better than I deserved, obviously, but not what it could’ve been.
A few years later, when I was commuting daily by train from Winchester to London and back, and reading several books a week during my two hours a day, ten hours a week, on the train, I happened to finish a book on the journey to London, and had to get something at lunch time for the train home. I found a copy of Persuasion in a second-hand bookshop on the Charing Cross Road, and almost as a joke I bought it and began it while waiting for the train to depart Waterloo Station. I was hooked. Hooked good and proper. Hooked forever. It’s now my favorite book.
I’ve read and/or seen TV or movie productions of everything Jane Austen has given us. Without fail, each time a new version of one of her books comes out, I watch it, critique it, then wish I could be in it. I’ve dreamed I might be pretty much every character she ever created. I was unsuccessful in earlier auditions, but now, finally, at last, TA DA! — it’s going to happen. Because Austin Playhouse is doing Sense and Sensibility, and director, Lara Toner has cast me!
We had our first read-through last night, and we laughed and laughed because, even before a playwright adapts or reinvents Jane Austen’s work, it’s funny. It’s very funny. It’s hilarious. And I may not be Elinor or Marianne or Lucy or Anne or Fanny, but it doesn’t matter. I really don’t mind. I simply longed to be a part of something Jane Austen, and now I can say that I am. Come join us at the Austin Playhouse, opening Friday, 31 March 2017. I can hardly wait to share it with you all.