Photo by Mona Mirpour
The production of “You on the Moors Now” sets to bring the Brotean and Austenian heroines readers love to the stage this weekend. The play follows the protagonists from “Little Women,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Pride and Prejudice.” In the alternate, absurdist reality of “You on the Moors Now,” the woman reject their marriage proposals, causing an ultimate battle of the sexes. The play opens April 11.
“It’s this play that’s examining really serious issues of the agency of woman and the perceived gender roles that are in 19th century novels, but it’s very silly, over the top and kind of ridiculous,” said Nathan Stith, director of the play and professor.
Although the characters are from 19th century novels, those who are unfamiliar with the books can still enjoy the play.
“Those are classic novels, but if you’ve never read any of those novels, there’s still a lot of fun things happening in this play that you can grasp onto,” Stith said.
The play stitches together pieces of the past and present, creating an absurdist reimagining of the stories born in the 19th century.
“In this show, it is about the agency of woman and gender dynamics, but it is also silly. So we’ve decided that these women are going to be in period costumes dressed like they were in the 19th century, but they’re also going to wear sneakers,” Stith said.
You on the Moors Now pushes the themes of female independence from the novels a step forward. The woman reject their proposals and decide to go it on their own.
“Although all of these women are wrapped up in marriage plots in their novels, they’re all also defined by a kind of fierce independence. The writers of these novels perhaps couldn’t imagine woman making their way not married, and if there’s a problem, maybe that’s it. That their independence has to ultimately be contextualized within the context of a marriage,” said Betsy Tontiplaphol, professor in the Department of English.
“I think that in a lot of ways it is a criticism of the book, but it’s also wholly its own thing,” said Alex Oliver, who plays Elizabeth Bennet. “We use that as a jumping off point, but at this point, they’re their own characters.”
The play has been in the works for more than a year now.
“We made the choice to do this play last March, and I’ve been working on it all summer long just reading it and reading it, working with the costume designer and the set designer, coming up with a concept of what we wanted it to look like,” Stith said.
The detailed preparation wasn’t just for the director and designers. After auditions were through, Stith enlisted the actors with their own fair share of research in order to fully understand the themes and subject matter of the production.
“The first thing that we had to do was when we got cast, Nathan — our director — immediately asked us to read novels,” Oliver said. “There was also a group of us that would re-watch a lot of the movie adaptations too.”
The proposal denial causes a battle between the men and women.
“We have a pretty large cast, so there’s some big group scenes between the men and the woman that we all had to choreograph,” Stith said. “It took a long time to really figure out how you have 18 actors on stage fighting each other at the same time.”
“The battle scene has truly become one of my favorite things,” Oliver said. “It gets really ridiculous and kind of childish, and then we have a moment where we all come together and realize that what we’re doing is wrong.”
The play opened Thursday April 11. It will play in the Steiren Theatre from Friday and Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Thursday 7 p.m.