2017/2018 Season

Jane Austen: What’s Streaming

In an earlier post, we introduced several film and television adaptations of Jane Austen’s beloved texts. With the holiday season looming, what better way to fill your travel days and evenings at home than with any one of these universally appealing stories. While it’s far from an exhaustive list of the myriad adaptations (and inspirations) that have been made from Austen’s singular voice, you’ll have many enrapturing hours to look forward to.

Mansfield Park (1999)

Mansfield Park (1999)

Emma (1996) — Gwyneth Paltrow stars as the charming and eponymous protagonist who spurns love and marriage for herself, but delights in interfering in the romantic lives of others. Her machinations begin to unravel when she attempts to play matchmaker for a protegee, Harriet Smith.

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes / Netflix

Emma (1996) — Adapted by Andrew Davies (of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice fame) for British television network ITV in the same year as Gwyneth Paltrow’s film adaptation, Kate Beckinsale is, in one critic’s words, “the best [Emma] of all.”

Stream on: Amazon / iTunes

Mansfield Park (1999) — The film departs from the original novel in a number of ways and also incorporates aspects of Jane Austen’s life; the result is, in Roger Ebert’s words, “… an uncommonly intelligent film, smart and amusing too, and anyone who thinks it is not faithful to Austen doesn’t know the author but only her plots.”

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

Felicity Jones in Northanger Abbey

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey (2007)

Northanger Abbey (2007) — Felicity Jones and JJ Feild are a captivating Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney in Austen’s satire of the Gothic genre. The coming-of-age story has the teenaged Catherine confusing her real life romantic entanglements with those in her favorite novels.

Stream on: Amazon / iTunes

Persuasion (1995) — Director Roger Michell wanted to be as faithful as possible to his source material, which extended to the production’s approach to makeup and costumes: the actors wore little to no makeup and clothing was made to appear lived-in, all which contributed to a sense of realism that many period dramas lacked.

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice (1995) — The most successful and lauded adaptation to date, the 1995 BBC miniseries—directed by Andrew Davies—elevated Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy) to stardom and began a wave of “Austen-mania.” (Jennifer Ehle went on to join the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as to win Tonys for her work on Broadway.)

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / Hulu / iTunes

Pride and Prejudice (2005) — In order to escape from under the shadow of the 1995 series, the creative team behind the film made an effort to distinguish their interpretation of Austen: the time period was changed from 1813 to the late 18th century (which, in turn, influenced the costuming—hardly an empire waist to be seen!), dialogue was altered to feel more natural and idiomatic, and there was a heightened romanticism to the entire project.

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson as the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility

Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson as the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Sense and Sensibility (1995) — With three awards and 11 nominations at the 1995 BAFTAs and seven Academy Award nominations, Sense and Sensibility not only revitalized Austen’s works in popular culture, but is also recognized as one of the best Austen adaptations of all time. Ang Lee directed and Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay—and stars—in this story of the Dashwood Sisters and their journey through love and loss.

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / Hulu / iTunes

Becoming Jane (2007) — A biographical drama that portrays a younger Austen (Anne Hathaway) and her fictionalized romance with Thomas Langlois Lefroy (James McAvoy), whose presence in her life some say inspired the dynamics in Pride and Prejudice.

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

Aishwarya Rai in Bride and Prejudice

Aishwarya Rai (second from left) as Lalita Bakshi in Bride and Prejudice (2005)

Bride and Prejudice (2005) — Many of the themes Austen writes about—marriage, dowries, the family as a social unit—are relevant issues in India and Pakistan (both countries have large Jane Austen societies), making Bollywood adaptations incredibly popular. Filmed primarily in English and featuring dialogue in Hindi and Punjabi, this Bollywood-style adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is set in modern India and features Aishwarya Rai as Lalita Bakshi.

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) — Director Ang Lee has referred to his sweeping wuxia (a genre of Chinese art concerning the adventures of martial artists) film on various occasions as ‘Sense and Sensibility with martial arts’ and ‘Bruce Lee meets Jane Austen.’ One of the most successful and influential foreign language films in the United States to this day, there isn’t anything explicitly Austenian about it, but it makes a compelling case for a film where “Jane Austen [as a code word is] a wonderful way of living one’s life at its most rhythmically amiable.”

Stream on: Amazon / Google Play / iTunes


The Primary Stages production of Pride and Prejudice is currently playing through January 6, 2018 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.

Advertisements

Peek inside the world of Pemberley with costume designer Tracy Christensen

Tracy Christensen’s costume designs have appeared in the recent Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close, and in the HBO film Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Audra McDonald, not to mention her work with countless shows Off-Broadway, regionally, and in concert and dance presentations. Christensen also dresses the madcap and quick-changing players of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice here at Primary Stages. 

Tracy Christensen's costume designs for Pride and Prejudice

A sketch of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet alongside a swatch of windowpane-checked fabric, featuring the characteristic Empire silhouette that was fashionable in women’s clothing during the Regency period (specifically, 1811-1820, but the term was also used to loosely refer to various periods prior to the Victorian Era).

Tracy Christensen's costume designs for Pride and Prejudice

In contrast to Lizzy’s simpler attire, Mr. Darcy is much more buttoned up (literally and figuratively). He’s shown here alongside the olive green fabric of his jacket and a subdued brown for his waistcoat (note the subtle floral details on his lapels!).

Tracy Christensen's costume designs for Pride and Prejudice

Our production of Pride and Prejudice features a cast of eight actors, but the story has nearly double the amount of characters—you can imagine there’s some creative juggling in terms of the doubling (and tripling!) of roles.

Jane’s romantic ensemble here is humorously contrasted by a shrouded and overstuffed Miss de Bourgh.

Tracy Christensen's costume designs for Pride and Prejudice

How bright-eyed Mr. Bingley and acerbic Mary Bennet could possibly be played by the same actor is a surprise you’ll have to experience for yourself, but an immediate difference can be seen in Bingley’s earthy and approachable ensemble, whereas Mary is nearly monochromatic in severe purples.


Performances of the Primary Stages production of Pride and Prejudice run through January 6 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.

Primary Stages Annual Gala 2017

The annual Primary Stages Gala was held at Tribeca 360° on October 16, 2017. This year, we celebrated Artistic Honorees Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (the Tony-winning songwriting team behind Ragtime, Once On This Island, and Anastasia); Producer Honorees, Janet B. Rosen and Marvin Rosen (In Transit on Broadway); and Corporate Honorees Jose Mendez and Katie Graziano (The Excel Group and MIC Floor Covering, LLC).

It was a beautiful evening filled with good food, fun conversation, and showstopping performances (Liz Callaway, the cast of In Transit, Ramin Karimloo, and Quentin Earl Darrington, among others). Thank you to all of our featured guests and attendees for making it such a warm and festive event, and to everyone for supporting the work and vision of Primary Stages as we continue building an off-Broadway home for American theater creators.

For more information about supporting Primary Stages and our extensive education programs, visit our website.

Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice: Suggested Reading

In Kate Hamill’s new adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, the classic story gets a modern sensibility with a hearty dose of quirk. As a companion to the production, we’ve put together the following additional resources for your pleasure, whether you’re already a die-hard Janeite or have your own prejudices towards the oft-cited story.

Pride and Prejudice, Mary Evans Picture Library

Books

  • The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (2012) by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard: With thousands of annotations to accompany the full text (explanations of historical context, citations from Austen’s other writings, etc.) as well as maps and illustrations, this exhaustive edition is indispensable to first time readers of Austen and lifelong devotees alike.  
  • Jane Austen: A Life (1999) by Claire Tomalin: Many biographies on Austen have reinforced the popular idea of a sheltered and untroubled spinster. Tomalin upsets that narrative by abstaining from embellishment and gossip in favor of piecing together the more serious and tumultuous moments in the author’s life.
  • Jane Austen: The Complete Works (2015) by Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Love and Friendship. These iconic novels have had generations of readers in a swoon.  Even in our modern age, her mastery of the English language leaps off the page.   

Still from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley.

Film & TV

  • Pride and Prejudice (1995): Seen by many as the definitive Pride and Prejudice adaptation, the BBC/A&E’s co-production—starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth—was a cultural phenomenon and one of the most popular programs in the history of both networks.
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005): In the most recent film adaptation of the book, director Joe Wright encouraged some marked deviation from the original text. It was a commercial success and found a loyal and lasting following through its aesthetic vision and in leading actors Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.
  • Death Comes to Pemberley (2014): This PBS and Masterpiece Mystery! mini-series—adapted from P.D. James’ novel of the same name, which was written as a continuation of Pride and Prejudice—is Austen meets Agatha [Christie]. Taking place six years after the marriage of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, ball preparations at Pemberley are halted abruptly when a corpse is discovered.
  • Clueless (1995): Loosely based on Emma and set in Beverly Hills, high school it girl Cherilyn “Cher” Horowitz plays matchmaker to two of her high school’s teachers. When she tries to do the same for a new student, affairs of the heart turns her world upside down.
  • Love & Friendship (2016): The recent film adaptation of Austen’s epistolary novel (a novel structured as a series of documents, most commonly letters), Lady Susan, features a cast that includes Kate Beckinsale and Stephen Fry. Though it uses the title of another Austen work, the story follows the escapades of the recently-widowed Lady Susan and her crusade to secure wealthy husbands for herself and her daughter.
  • “Furst Impressions”, Wishbone (1995): The Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series broadcast on PBS Kids in the 1990s sparked young imaginations and introduced an entire generation of children to some of the greatest works of literature from around the world, as told by its title character: a daydreaming Jack Russell Terrier.
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013): A multiplatform adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was the first YouTube series to win a Primetime Emmy Award. Reimagined as a series of vlogs, our “Lizzie” here is a grad student who decides to start documenting the trials and tribulations of her life on video as a part of her thesis.

Documentaries

  • The Divine Jane: Reflections on Austen (2010) by Francesco Carrozzini: Originally commissioned for an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum, this series of short films features six leading writers, scholars, and actors and engages with each individual on Austen’s lasting legacy.
  • Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors (2017) by Lucy Worsley: English historian, author, curator, and television presenter Lucy Worsley guides audiences through Austen’s life by way of the different houses where she stayed and how each residence left a lasting impression on the celebrated author and the fictional worlds she created.

Illustration by Susie Hogarth

Articles

  • “The Word Choices That Explain Why Jane Austen Endures” by Kathleen A. Flynn and Josh Katz: If you love linguistics and visualizing data this article is the cherry on top for any Austen fan—her acute perceptiveness of her fellow human beings has met few equals.   
  • “Reading Jane Austen’s Final, Unfinished Novel” by Anthony Lane: Jane Austen died four months after writing the last line of her final, unfinished manuscript (now known as “Sanditon”). Reviews were mixed, with many questioning whether Austen was experimenting with new directions in her writing, or whether no consensus could be made with death hovering over the author.     
  • “How Jane Austen’s Emma changed the face of fiction” by John Mullan: “Revolutionary” and “Jane Austen” rarely share the same sentence, but Mullan makes a compelling case for Emma’s stylistic triumphs.

Performances of the Primary Stages production of Pride and Prejudice start November 7 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.

First Look: Inside the Pride and Prejudice Rehearsal Room

The company of Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice came together on October 17 at Primary Stages for the first read through of the show. Enjoy a glimpse of this joyous cast, featuring Mark Bedard, Kimberly Chatterjee, Kate Hamill, Jason O’Connell, Amelia Pedlow, Chris Thorn, John Tufts, and Nance Williamson.

Photography by Ashley Garrett

Performances of the Primary Stages production of Pride and Prejudice start November 7 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.

Gospelists, philosophers, and writers: get to know the historical figures of Discord

A former president, the writer responsible for “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, and a Russian aristocrat dressed like a peasant walk into a room… The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter imagines what might happen if these three men were trapped in limbo together.

Whether you’re a devotee of one of these men or only know them by their most famous contributions, they were defining characters of their time beyond our stage—their philosophies and written texts shaped (and continue to shape) a legion of followers.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the 3rd U.S. president, and a longtime politician and philosopher:

  • Focused on universal human rights, religious equality, and education.
  • Fathered six children with his slave, Sally Hemmings.
  • Famous work: Declaration of Independence.

Charles Dickens at the age of 47, by William Powell Frith. London, England, 1859

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a British author, critic, and commentator:

  • Focused on poverty and social class.
  • The first modern literary celebrity.
  • Famous works: Oliver TwistA Christmas Carol, and Great Expectations.

Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a Russian writer, thinker, and social reformer:

  • Focused on morality and faith.
  • Born an aristocrat and revered the peasant class.
  • Famous works: War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Suggested Reading

In hopes of shining a light on the weighty life questions put center stage in Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy, we’ve put together the following resources for further exploration of their relationships to legacy, philosophy, and religion. From lesser known works by the men themselves to sweeping adaptations of beloved stories, there’s hardly a medium that Dickens, Jefferson, or Tolstoy did not influence.

Books

  • A Confession and Other Religious Writings by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy is best known for his novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but this collection of his personal writings—on the likes of faith, freedom, and morality—is further testimony to the tireless mind of a man lauded as one of the greatest authors in history.
  • Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels by Dickinson W. Adams: Thomas Jefferson was unsatisfied with the authors of the four Gospels and the trustworthiness of their accounts, so he took it upon himself to literally extract the offending passages from his own copies of the New Testament. This volume is a compilation of Adams’ research into Jefferson’s Bible, and the definitive presentation of the president’s religious beliefs.
  • The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens: Written exclusively for his children, Dickens forbade the publication of this book so long as he or any of his children lived. Published 64 years after his death, Dickens’ The Life of Our Lord is a simple and endearing retelling of Jesus Christ’s life and became a bestseller in its first year of publication (1934).   

Film & TV

  • A Christmas Carol (1984): If you’ve ever wrinkled your nose at the holiday season, you’re likely to have been called a “Scrooge.” We have Dickens to thank for coining the term with his iconic Ebenezer Scrooge and the timeless (and oft adapted) story of a miser transformed by visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
  • War and Peace (1966): Adaptations of Tolstoy’s epic have taken liberties with their sprawling source material, but Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1969 Academy Award-winning undertaking—some 7 hours on 3 discs—is as close to visualizing the text as you can get.

Documentaries

  • Thomas Jefferson (1997) by Ken Burns: The 3 part documentary by American filmmaker Ken Burns is an overview of both the public and the private face of the once president (and also writer, inventor, and architect). Academics and political figures discuss his life and legacy, as well as his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.
  • The Trouble with Tolstoy (2011) by Alan Yentob: Originally aired in two installments on the BBC, Alan Yentob’s documentary takes the viewer on a train ride through Tolstoy’s Russia. Featuring contributions from the author’s great great grandson and distinguished Russian commentators, it is a comprehensive overview of a singular and mercurial man.
  • Uncovering the Real Dickens (2003) by Peter Ackroyd: Presented by Peter Ackroyd for the BBC, this 3-disc set explores the best of times and the worst of times of the author, with the help of dramatic reconstruction. The additional material includes the 1999 adaptation of David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol as performed by Anton Lesser.

Articles

  • “Charles Dickens: Six Things He Gave the Modern World” by Alex Hudson: From shaping the portrayal of modern Christmas in our culture to his influence on cinema, Dickens’ work has a reach that transcends the page.
  • “Leo Tolstoy’s Poignant Letter to Gandhi on the Laws of Love” by Nathan Gelgud: It’s easy to overlook the fact that history’s most towering figures lived alongside equally formidable contemporaries and didn’t just exist in a vacuum by themselves. Take Tolstoy’s writings to Gandhi in the last years of the former’s life, where he expounds on his belief in love triumphing over force: “any employment of force is incompatible with love as the highest law of life, and that as soon as the use of force appears permissible even in a single case, the law itself is immediately negatived.” The letters in their entirety can be read here.
  • “Charlottesville: Why Jefferson Matters” by Annette Gordon-Reed: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed, writes on Jefferson’s aspirations and paradoxes, and how they continue to underline the fragility of the American experiment.

The Primary Stages production of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord runs until October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.