By Jennifer Watton. The year is 1814 and Emma Woodhouse is eager to see her friends happily married. Giddy with the success of one match, Emma ignores the warnings of Mr. Knightley and turns her attention to young Harriet Smith, determined to ensure a suitable union. But Emma’s efforts misfire, resulting in a flurry of comic complications that uncover the real effects of her meddling and reveal how little Emma knows about true love. A timeless romance,Emma plays March 12 – 23 at TWU’s School of the Arts, Media and Culture.
“Directing a show about a matchmaker in these days of eHarmony and match.com is really fascinating,” says Assistant Professor Aaron Caleb, who helms the production. “Whatever the century, we all look for love and the events and insights of this story remain startlingly fresh. When you add in Jane Austen’s vivid, charming characters, the result is delight from start to finish.”
In addition to clever and beautiful Emma (Daniele Neve), the attractive and enigmatic Mr. Knightley (Brandon Bate), and Emma’s hapless friend Harriet, (Shelby Wyminga), all of Austen’s colourful characters are present in this production.
Two Abbotsford residents play Emma’s most successful match and the catalyst for all the action. Third year Theatre Major Sharra Ganzeveld makes her TWU stage debut as Emma’s beloved governess Miss Taylor, who becomes Mrs. Weston at the start of the play.
“Playing Mrs. Weston is such fun,” says Ganzeveld. “I am the closest thing Emma has to a mother, so I get to see all Emma’s gifts and also her failings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she doesn’t always listen to what I have to say.”
The outgoing and likeable Mr. Weston is played by third year BFA student Cody Friesen whose TWU credits include Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof and Benvolio in Romeo + Juliet.
“Mr. Weston has a real love of life that I relate to,” Friesen says. “He is so determined to see the best in others that he is almost blind to their faults. I admire that, but I can also learn from his experience.”
The cast of characters also includes Emma’s hypochondriac father Henry (Mark Fleming); talkative spinster Miss Bates (Jane Townsend); amorous vicar Mr. Elton (Ben Buckingham); eligible bachelor Frank Churchill (David Shoffner); Emma’s nemesis, the strangely silent Jane Fairfax (Julie Casselman); social-climber Augusta Hawkins (Audrey Herold); and Harriet’s humble and overlooked suitor, Mr. Robert Martin (Andrew Gundy).
“Austen’s understanding of human nature is unfailing,” says Caleb. “She depicts people’s weaknesses with such wit and wisdom that we can’t help but love them.”
Adapted for the stage by Michael Bloom, this production transports the audience to the English countryside as the action takes place against a backdrop of beautifully painted panels. The set is designed by director Caleb, the chief force behind SAMC Theatre’s runaway hit Fiddler on the Roof last season. Lighting design is by Jessica Wong and the beautiful regency costumes are designed by Sabrina Evertt, whose work was seen in this year’s Go Back for Murder and last season’s Romeo + Juliet. Ariana Hurt provides live piano accompaniment, scoring the experience with the evocative music of the era. Stage management is by Charissa Hurt, Tiffany Choi, and Margaret Thorpe.
The enchanting Emma plays on the Trinity Western University campus, March 12 – 23 at 7:30pm Tues-Sat with 2:00pm Saturday matinees; special discounts on Tuesdays. For tickets and information, visit www.twu.ca/theatre or email email@example.com.
Photo: Abbotsford’s Cody Friesen and Sharra Ganzeveld as Mr. and Mrs. Weston in SAMC Theatre’s production of Jane Austen’s Emma. Photo by Jef Gibbons
Trinity Western University is a Christian University of the arts, sciences, and professions, legislated by British Columbia to serve the public. Recognized for quality, TWU is consistently ranked among the top two universities in Canada for Educational Experience by the National Survey of Student Engagement; holds three Canada Research Chairs; wins National Championships in CIS sports; and emphasizes experiential learning to prepare graduates to make a global impact. TWU offers 42 bachelor’s degrees, 16 graduate degrees, and adult degree-completion programs. A vibrant community committed to educating the whole person, TWU has been developing leaders of character and competence for 50 years.