JANE EYRE: the play preview-A new adaptation at Northwestern

Logo for JANE EYRE; photo courtesy of Northwestern University
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JANE EYRE, the play: adapted from Charlotte Brontë’s novel by Polly Teale, directed by Kathryn Walsh, MFA directing program mentor and adjunct theater faculty at Northwestern University.

The production opens Northwestern University’s 2018-19 main stage season of the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 26, 2018. The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.

Charlotte Brontë’s novel tells the story of Jane Eyre, an orphaned child, who is taught by a succession of severe guardians to stifle her natural exuberance. As a result, she locks a part of herself away, out of view from polite society. That is until she arrives at Thornfield Hall, an English manor to begin work as a governess to the young child of Edward Rochester. Quickly, the wealthy man’s passionate nature reawakens Jane’s hidden self, but darker secrets are stirring in the attic above.

Director Kathryn Walsh; photo courtesy of Northwestern University

Kathryn Walsh directs Polly Teale’s bold adaptation of the literary classic, about which critics have commented:

“Polly Teale has liberated Jane Eyre in a way that Charlotte Brontë could not… Her most inspired idea is to fuse the mad woman in the attic with Jane’s younger self”. – Observer

“One of the finest and most searching stage adaptations I have ever seen… this Jane Eyre succeeds as both a wise distillation of the novel and a thrilling piece of theatre in its own right”. – Daily Telegraph

This reviewer had the opportunity to interview Kathryn Walsh about this upcoming performance which uses theatrical movement to put the interior life of the novel on stage in a way audiences have never before experienced.

“The novel Jane Eyre has always been considered ahead of its time in terms of its psychological and sexual self-observations as well as its social criticism”, noted the director. “This play is inspired by Jane Eyre but is centered upon a particular theme. It has a leaner focus, a theatricalization achieved by the use of movement.”

She added,  “The key to the new adaptation is the madwoman in the attic, Bertha, Rochester’s first wife. What Polly Teale has done is to place Bertha on stage as part of Jane. Bertha is the expressive, emotional part of Jane ‘s personality who recognizes that Jane’s treatment at the hands of others has been unjust and encourages Jane to act out”.

Mused Walsh, “Jane has concealed, even from her own consciousness, a part of herself and refused to let it out because its socially unacceptable. This unique adaptation is about the violence we do to ourselves under society’s ideas of who we are supposed to be, what our gender is supposed to be and how we are supposed to behave in the world,” Walsh said. “I’m excited about this production because it deals with a young woman and what it means to step into adulthood, which feels incredibly important and potent in this moment in time.”

Caroline Chu as Jane Eyre; photo by Collin Quinn Rice

JANE EYRE, the play: October 26 – November 11, 2018, Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus

Performances of “Jane Eyre” are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Estimated Running Time: Estimated 2hrs with one intermission.
Audience Advisory: Sexual violence. Rec Age: 12+

Tickets are available now on the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or in-person at the Wirtz Center box office, which is located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive.

Box office hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The box office is closed Sundays and Mondays.



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