Language and themes of Jane Eyre challenges young actors, teacher says
Starting early next week, Henry Wise Wood High School’s young actors will be performing Jane Eyre, a play considered challenging by the students and its director for its sophisticated language and mature content.
“The language is difficult, it’s mid 19th century, when the language was much more sophisticated than students this day and age understand and are able to speak,” said Brenda Calnan, the drama teacher at Henry Wise Wood High School and the play’s director.
“That was a challenge, for them to find the meaning behind the dialogue.”
An old story
Calnan has worked for the past school semester to get this play up and running, and with the curtain going up in only a few nights, she reflects on why she picked a tough play for the students to do.
“It’s always been a story that has a lot of deep meaning in terms of relationships. It has always just been a terrific story, a heartfelt story and it always just struck a chord with me,” said Calnan.
The novel Jane Eyre was originally written in London, England in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte. Considered ahead of it’s time for its portrayal of a young independent woman, Jane Eyre has been adapted several times into movies, T.V. specials and plays.
Photo by: Jeff Medhurst
The challenge for Calnan to adapt this gothic romance into a high school play stemmed from several factors, most notably from its time period.
Teenagers in love
A greater challenge arose from the meaning behind the dialogue. The students and Calnan have both struggled to tackle themes that many would consider beyond a high school student’s understanding.
“The students performing in this play have never been in love themselves,” said Calnan. “So for them to draw upon those feelings, they have to go different places to try and draw up that type of emotion.”
The students, some of whom are more used to doing comedy roles as opposed to dramatic ones, admit to struggling.
“I haven’t done many roles that have been serious, or serious in a romantic way. Especially because it was a big role, and I had to learn to do it quick,” said Maria Georgescu, a Grade 12 student who is already a veteran of 11 productions. Travis LeBaron, a fellow Grade 12 student who marks “Jane Eyre” as his fifth play agrees with his co-star.
“I’m usually going for the laughs as opposed to the tears. It’s a really serious play, it’s really emotional, and just trying to find that emotion and project it, it’s been a struggle. But we’re getting there,” agreed LeBaron,
Determined to make it happen
However despite the challenge the play presents, students such as Jill Moch are confident that people will enjoy the production.
“It’s so heartfelt and you feel so much for the characters. You can connect with every character in the play, whether you love them or hate them,” said Moch, another rising theatre veteran who has done eight plays prior to Jane Eyre.
Determined to make the play the best they can, students continue to rehearse every day after school until the production hits the stage to help ensure a high quality production.
“We put so much into these plays. We’re here day-in, day-out, you know we put so much effort in and we’re looking for this outcome and we’re not going to accept anything less,” said LeBaron.
The play opens Monday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. and then plays Dec. 6 – 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for those under the age of 18. To get tickets visit the drama room at Henry Wise Wood during their lunch hour at noon or call Brenda at 403-253-2261, ext 2138.