LADY SUSAN press release
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BELLA UNION THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS JANE AUSTEN’S LADY SUSAN
World-premiere adaptation of early Jane Austen novel at the Berkeley City Club in July
April 30, 2009 Ambitious local theatre company Bella Union Theatre Company introduces Bay Area audiences to a little-known work of a beloved author with their world-premiere adaptation of Jane Austen’s LADY SUSAN. One of Jane Austen’s earliest works, Lady Susan brings to life one of the most deliciously “bad” characters of Austen’s entire canon. In Christine U’Ren’s clever adaptation, the young Jane Austen is featured as an onstage character, and the audience watches as the author’s ideas take shape. Directed by Gina Baleria, Bella Union’s production of Lady Susan previews on July 2, opens on July 3, and runs Thursdays Sundays through July 26, 2009 at the historic Berkeley City Club.
An “epistolary novel” written almost entirely in the form of letters sent between characters, Jane Austen’s Lady Susan has rarely been staged and never filmed, despite its audacious heroine and lively plot. Fascination and deception come naturally to the beautiful, widowed Lady Susan who manages, “without the charm of youth,” to captivate every man who comes within her orbit. She schemes to marry the gentlemanly Reginald De Courcy while enjoying the attentions of the rakish Manwaring and consigning her sweetly intelligent daughter to dubious marital felicity with a vacuous dandy all to the chagrin of her highly respectable former sister-in-law. Written in the early 1790’s, when Jane Austen was less than 20 years old, Lady Susan begins to explore many of the themes of Austen’s later works, and amply demonstrates the wit that would become the author’s hallmark.
“It’s relatively simple to bring the characters of an epistolary novel such as Lady Susan to life, as the letter-writing character speaks directly for him or herself,” says playwright and founding member of Bella Union Theatre Company Christine U’Ren. “The challenge is to flesh out the interactions between the characters.” U’Ren has worked in radio and theatre as a writer, researcher, designer and actor for over 15 years. Most of her recent theatre work has been for Bella Union, but she has also worked for Theatre Rhinoceros, Eastenders Repertory Company, and Three Wise Monkeys’ Bay Area One Acts (BOA) festival. Her first full-length original play, Improper Ambitions, was produced to great acclaim by Bella Union in 2005. Lady Susan is Christine U’Ren’s first adaptation, and her second full-length play.
“It is such a pleasure to direct such a well-wrought work,” says director Gina Baleria. “The characters really seem to move so naturally through the play that directing seems almost effortless. It is a joy to guide this play to life on stage.” Baleria most recently directed 22 Minutes Remaining, by Ignacio Zulueta, at the BOA Festival 2009, and Ruffian on the Stair, by Joe Orton, at Theatre Rhinoceros. Other directing credits include Here’s That Rainy Day by John Levine, The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang, and Isaiah Dufort’s hilarious one-act The Pheasant. As an actor, she was last seen as Rhonda Louise in the AtmosTheatre production of John Patrick Shanley’s Women of Manhattan. She has also appeared in No Exit as Inez, and the Odyssey Players production of Much Ado About Nothing as Margaret. She is a co-founding member of AtmosTheatre (formerly Theatre in the Woods), and a member of Eastenders Repertory Company.
Bella Union Theatre Company has developed a niche following for its excellent productions of classic, contemporary, and original works. The Company first came together in July of 2000, and has since collaborated on five theatre projects, as well as a short film and several staged readings. Bella Union’s first production was a critically acclaimed staging of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, followed by three original works: Devouring Time, an improvised work created from a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Demon_Industry, a supernatural tale set in a South San Francisco game company, and Improper Ambitions, the story of two real-life female painters in the Paris art world. Bella Union is a fiscally sponsored project of Intersection for the Arts.
Jane Austen (1775 1817) is one of the most beloved authors in the English language. Known for her biting studies of social interaction and her brilliant character portraits, she was acclaimed by such contemporary luminaries as the Prince Regent and Sir Walter Scott, but preferred to remain anonymous during her lifetime. Best known for her celebrated novels, which include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion, among others, Austen also wrote a number of fragmentary humorous stage pieces. In early works such as Lady Susan, Austen experimented with the epistolary style. Her lost novel, First Impressions, is believed to have been written in the form of letters. It was later redrafted as Pride and Prejudice.
The cast of Bella Union’s production of Lady Susan includes Bella Union company members Candice M. Milan* (Lady Susan), Daria Hepps (Catherine Vernon) and Gene Mocsy (Manwaring), and Bay Area performers Kristin Clippard (Jane Austen), Geoffrey Libby (Reginald De Courcy), Jessica Lyn Robertson (Frederica Vernon), and Matt Weimer (Sir James Martin).
ABOUT THE COMPANY MEMBERS
Daria Hepps (“Catherine Vernon”/Producer) is the original founder of Bella Union Theatre Company. A longtime Bay Area theatre practitioner, Daria continues to act and direct, although much of her time is taken up by her demanding day-job raising funds for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Local directing credits include The Sneeze and La Ronde. She acted in both of these, as well as in Bella Union’s productions of Demon_Industry and Improper Ambitions.
Candice M. Milan* (“Lady Susan”/Producer/Scenic Designer) an actor who also directs and teaches from time to time, is a founding member of Bella Union Theatre Company. In a little over a year, Candice has appeared as “Joanne” in California Conservatory Theatre’s production of Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmie Dean, Jimmie Dean, directed a production of The Little Foxes for St. Ignatius College Preparatory, and enjoyed the arrival of her daughter Isadora. Another favorite role with Bella Union includes “the Dark Lady” in Devouring Time, a piece she conceived and directed featuring a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Candice has an MFA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
*Member of Actors’ Equity. Lady Susan is an Equity-approved project.
Gene Mocsy (“Manwaring”/Producer/Lighting Designer) is a founding member of Bella Union Theatre Company, where he has worked as a playwright, director, designer, and actor. His latest play, Pandemic, is about zombies. He recently appeared as Floridal in the world premiere of A Dangerous Precaution, by Mikhail Kuzmin, at Theatre Rhinoceros. By day, he is a video game designer. He recently helped finish A Vampyre Story at Autumn Moon Entertainment, and is working on an unannounced new title at the same company.
Christine U'Ren (Playwright/Producer/Costume Design) has worked in radio and theatre as a writer, researcher, designer and actor for over 15 years. Most of her recent theatre work has been for Bella Union, but she has also worked for Theatre Rhinoceros, Eastenders Repertory Company, and Three Wise Monkeys’ Bay Area One Acts (BOA) festival. Her first full-length original play, Improper Ambitions, was produced to great acclaim by Bella Union in 2005. Lady Susan is Christine U’Ren’s first adaptation, and her second full-length play.
The Berkeley City Club is located at 2315 Durant Avenue in Berkeley, CA. Lady Susan runs July 2 July 26, 2009. Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are: sliding scale $15 - $25. Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets: 1-800-838-3006 and brownpapertickets.com
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MEDIA INQUIRIES & INFORMATION: Gina Baleria: 415.370.8945 or ginabsf(at)yahoo.com
PRESS PHOTOS: http://www.bellaunion.org/press2.html
WHO: Bella Union Theatre Company
WHAT: “LADY SUSAN” a world-premiere stage production of the novel by Jane Austen
Cast: Kristin Clippard, Daria Hepps, Geoffrey Libby, Candice M. Milan*, Gene Mocsy, Jessica Lyn Robertson and Matt Weimer
PERFORMANCE DATES: Thursday, July 2 Preview @ 8pm
SHOWTIMES: Plays Thurs-Sat evenings @ 8pm and Sundays @ 3pm
CLOSES: July 26
VENUE: Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704)
TICKETS: sliding scale: $15 to $25
BOX OFFICE: 1-800-838-3006 and brownpapertickets.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION, THE PUBLIC SHOULD CALL: 510-333-5330 or visit www.bellaunion.org
|*Member of Actors' Equity. Lady Susan is an Equity-Approved project.|