Interview – Carla Barwineck, Director of Emma

If you love Jane Austen, this show will not disappoint. Our stage production, smartly written by Jon Jory and directed by Carla Barwineck, is a sparkling adaptation and features a spectacle of Regency dance, revelry, and romance that will welcome audiences into Austen’s witty, captivating world. Here are some questions put to CB Productions’ Artistic Director about the show. 
Q: Why did you choose to stage a play adapted from Jane Austen’s novel, EMMA?
 
CB: I love a complex storyline written with rich characters placed in challenging situations. It is inspiring to see our young actors daily discover the ins and outs of such brilliantly written characters. For example, Emma’s character is so full of life, so endearing, seemingly ALWAYS right in situations – socially, morally, and intellectually – in Highbury; yet often she follows the wrong clues and instincts forcing her and the audience to face her mistakes with grace, dignity, and quite a bit of humor. She is a talented, young, imperfect woman trying to come to terms with a world less ready to bend to her will than she had hoped, but which ultimately doesn’t let her down.
Jane Austen’s EMMA is a complex story written on so many levels that it was like working on a complex table puzzle. The story reveals polite deceptions, grave deceptions, and self-deceptions. It invites us to ask big questions without flinching from the answers. The entire story seems to be written as a brilliant practical joke to which is played on us, the audience, and on Emma herself. Emma’s elaborate readings of the false indicators she so often interprets, is fun for us all to observe and often times her misinterpretations are moments of which we can relate!
The play itself is light, fun, rich, beautifully written and staged with many dance elements. Add in the beautiful designs from our costumer, Heidi Carls, our set designer, Kathleen McCarthy and lighting designer, Shannon Elliot together with our experienced cast of talented young artists, and this show is sure to be a true delight for any audience.
 
Q: What are some of the challenges in staging an Austen story? 
 
CB: This is the second Austen novel CB Productions has produced for the stage, (the first being Pride and Prejudice performed exactly 10 years ago) and I was longing to do another. I would say one of the challenges I face when adapting ANY well-loved Austen novel for the stage is trying to remain true to its brilliant verbiage, and yet keeping the story concise enough to fit “roughly” into a 2 hour time period without losing its message. I did not write the script for this production but I spent many hours reading different versions of the story and carefully chose the playwright who fits within my requirements. I feel that Jon Jory’s version of EMMA is a smart and crisp version of this Austen novel. It captures the characters brilliantly and certainly moves the story along at a brisk pace making it accessible to anyone who loves reading novels.
I have found the biggest challenge of staging any Austen play is the varying locations and the rapid changes of these scenes. In this play, Emma never leaves the stage and visits several locals: the town of Highbury, her home, several gardens, the Weston’s home, and Ms Bates’ flat – and each several times! Working with our set designer/builder/painter, Kathleen McCarthy, we decided that since the scenes change often and quickly, it would be best to use a revolving set. So we referred to the ancient inventors of staged productions themselves: the Greeks! In this production we are using 5 painted periaktoi (a revolving triangular prism made of wood, bearing on each of its three sides a different pictured scene), which, when revolved and placed together in differ configurations, creates the varying locals quickly. With Kathleen painting the scenic elements directly onto each periaktos, we have a beautiful piece of art which elegantly moves across and around the stage, each handled by our experienced stage crew. Emma faces many puzzles throughout the play and I felt that this design best reinforces her dilemma.
 
Q: What age group would best benefit from seeing this show?
 
CB: I know how important this question is for audiences, especially when we cater to entire families, however you must understand the difficulties in answering this question. Every child is different … every family is different … and to just blanketly state that this show is best experienced by those aged 8-adults either excludes some who would love it OR include some that won’t understand it at all. I ALWAYS encourage YOU to read the novel first and take responsibility for your choices. You can usually read the script online by searching the title and it’s playwright or by sometimes borrowing it from the library. That being said, I feel that if one enjoys reading novels or period pieces one will certainly enjoy EMMA.
Read the story online
Read the play online
 
Q: What other ways can we prepare before we see this play. 
 
CB: Well, as I said, read the book or play, or rent the audible version of the book first and foremost. The movies can be helpful in understanding the story, however there is nothing better than creating the story in ones mind, and then comparing that to the stage version.
I would also suggest visiting some of the sites I have listed below. Since Jane Austen’s books were written about and published during the period of time in England known as the Regency Period: “A period in England defined when the Prince of Wales assumed the role of Prince Regent when his father King George III was declared unfit to rule in 1811.” (Renee Warren, janeausten.org/regency-period.asp) it is fun to discover Jane Austen’s world, the Regency Period and all of the social norms and rules associated to this time.
Here are just a few suggestions for you:
-JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD – This is a very informative site that will give you a background from pretty much anything from this time period.
-KIM RENDFELD –  Some great insight on ladies of the Regency Period and ettiguette- from a Historical Novelist.
-AUSTENIZED, Anything Jane Austen, this is a very interesting blog.
There is so much information out there about The Regency Period that you can just google “Jane Austen” and go from there. I found the rules of the etiquette and the constraint put on both men and women from this time so helpful in reading and understanding the novel. I also found any comparisons of Dickens to Austen, (both authors during the Regency Period -Austen at the beginning and Dickens towards the end) and their personal views of society so extremely interesting. ENJOY
Here is a Fun Fact: Once Ms. Austen finished her book, the Prince Regent presented Jane with the “honor” of dedicating it to himself.  Here is Jane’s response to this honor so given her: “To His Royal Highness The Prince Regent. This work is by his Royal Highness’s permission, most respectfully dedicated to His Royal Highness, by His dutiful and obedient humble servant, the Author.
 
Q: How do we get tickets? 
 
CB: Go to cbproductions.org for further information and to order tickets. Be sure to do this quickly since tickets are seriously selling FAST Come create art with us! Can’t wait to see you there!!!! CB