Happily for him, a love of the theatre is so general, an itch for acting so strong among young people, that he could hardly out-talk the interest of his hearers. From the first casting of the parts, to the epilogue, it was all bewitching, and there were few who did not wish to have been a party concerned, or would have hesitated to try their skill.
– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Volume 1, Chapter 13
When a friend and I went to see Pride and Prejudice at Lee Davis High School in Mechanicsville on Thursday, we didn’t know what to expect. Oh, we knew the script was written by Jon Jory, and that the Lee-Davis Players had the depth and breadth to put on such an ambitious play, but we couldn’t predict how much fun we’d have, or how quickly 2 ½ hours would speed along.
I was enchanted by this high school production, and smiled throughout the play. While all the players were a joy to watch, a few of the cast stood out in my mind: Ryan Leach as Mr. Collins; Tyler Simpson and Morgan Gregory as Mr and Mrs. Bennet; Sarah Wilson as Miss Bingley; Sean Williams as Mr. Darcy, Donald Evans and Brett Howard as Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner; and Jessica Jones as Lydia Bennet. I almost hate to single these actors out, for this was truly an ensemble cast. In addition, some of the actors – Lizzy (Kaylyn Vial), Jane (Mary Lynn Hunley), Mary (Allison Ferrel), and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Bethany Leinenbach)- were alternates who performed their roles in front of the public for the first time. I cannot imagine the pressure these young alternates must have felt, but they rose admirably to the occasion. I also came away with the conclusion that all young ladies look adorable in high-waisted regency gowns, and that the cravat, though it makes a man look smart, died a merciful sartorial death.
In an age when budget cutbacks in public schools have resulted in the wholesale dismantling of music, fine arts, and other cultural programs, it is refreshing to witness how administrative support can help a theatrical group thrive. Thursday night’s performance was a sell-out. I understand that for Saturday’s sixth and final performance, additional seating will need to be brought in. The group has its own website, which lists this season’s plays, and the first performance of Sweeney Todd is set to start at the end of April. The troupe has just a month to memorize new lines and rehearse, but the actors were eager to get started.
After I spoke to people back stage and took their pictures (my battery died before I photographed everyone, most notably Mary – Allison Ferrell and Miss Bingley – Sarah Wilson), they changed into their street clothes. In the blink of an eye, I was transported to today’s world. When I returned home I read the theatre programme and had a wonderful time all over again, for it was obvious that the cast members had written their biographies. Here are some fun examples of their wit, pathos, and humor:
- Kevin Hall (Ballguest/Soldier/Servant) This is his first performance. He’s 16, in 11th grade, and a huge nerd.
- Ryan Leach (Mr. Collins) would like to thank his mother and father for giving a gift as great as him to the world.
- Afton Reed (Lady Catherine), a seasoned performer, would like “people to know she still gets terribly nervous.”
- Tyler Simpson (Mr. Bennet) climbs the mountains of Columbia every morning, “with his pack mule Jimmy to gather the freshest of mountain coffee beans. He then grinds the coffee beans and makes a fresh cup of Columbian Coffee for Mrs. Beatty.”
- Jillian Dull (Elizabeth Bennet) has “been with the LD players since she was 10 (which is basically forever)”, and
- Donald Evans (Mr. Gardiner) “has friends that like to hang out with him. Thank goodness because he gets bored easily.”
Photographs, starting at the top, and working down from left to right.
- Lizzy (alternate) and Darcy: Kaylyn Vial and Sean Williams
- Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet: Ryan Leach and Morgan Gregory
- Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner: Donald Evans and Brett Howard
- Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bennet, and Kitty: Morgan Gregory, Tyler Simpson, and Jackie Johnson
- Jane, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Lizzy (Regular):Caitlin Sneed, Afton Reed, and Jillian Dull.
- Lady Catherine de Bourgh (alternate), Mr. Collins, and Charlotte Lucas: Bethany Leinenbach, Ryan Leach, and Rebekah Joyner
- Housekeeper, Officer, Jane, Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Bingley: Karen Richard, Kevin Hall, Maria Lyn Hunley, Andrew Coalson, and Matt Raines
- Mr. Wickham and Lydia: Andrew Coalson and Jessica Jones
Directed by P.S. Beatty and D. Prince, Assistant Director, Caitlin Sneed, Costumes by Ellen Malloy, and Artwork by Brittany Austin.