Charlotte Brontë’s titular character in “Jane Eyre” springs off the page and onto the stage in this September’s production by Stage Door Productions.
The love story begins in the burned-out ruins of Thornfield Hall, as the adult Jane Eyre recalls the events of her life. From her upbringing as an orphan, to her experience at the Lowood School, and eventually her acceptance as governess at Thornfield where she meets Edward Rochester.
“Jane Eyre” will début Friday and run six dates through Sept. 15 on the third floor of 810 Caroline St. The show begins the current Stage Door main stage season, which consists of three to four full-length plays or musicals at a variety of venues throughout the Fredericksburg community.
Artistic director Amy Beach said the theme for this season is “longing,” and “Jane Eyre” fits that as the story of Jane longing “for a life of passion and a family where she can be loved.”
She proposed the play because it’s a favorite story of hers, but said it also suits the company of actors well. She said a lot of work, also, has gone into this interpretation. After months of searching, she found the Robert Johanson adaptation, which she said is the truest to the book.
“Fans of the original novel will not be disappointed,” she said.
Jane Eyre opens the play with a monologue explaining her past so the audience understands the person she has become.
“Often times when we look back into our past, we remember events but maybe we don’t remember the exact details,” she said. “Because of this, I thought it was important to show that by mimicking how memory is fallible onstage. While the set is minimalist and the costumes are deconstructed, the lighting and sound design gives the production a full feeling. The audience is supposed to be engrossed in the story, but the deconstructed presentation allows them to fill in the gaps of Jane’s memory.”
The cast, too, has played a large role in creating this atmospheric interpretation. Beach said she was “incredibly impressed” with the talent that came out to audition. She noted the “talented and humble actress” Austen Wethersby who plays Jane Eyre, saying “her nuanced performance enables the audience to share in her emotional journey.”
She continued, saying the entire cast has a particular chemistry that makes the production work.
Jaxson Benke who plays John Reed said that the production has been a fun one to be a part of and to watch. Watching all of the actors evolve their parts, and working on his own, “I’ve learned stage combat, and how to be really mean.”
Additionally, Ava Sherwood who plays Adele Varens, has put her own stamp on her character.
“It’s been a lot of fun because everyone is so interesting and we all get along,” she said. “Playing Adele is awesome because I get to speak French and be a cute little girl.”
The 23-actor cast ranges in age from 8 years old to seniors. And similarly, audiences of any age can come out to watch.
“Stage Door believes in theater for everyone, and ‘Jane Eyre’ has something for everyone: romance, drama and memorable characters. I knew that the community of talent that Stage Door fosters would bring success to the production,” Beach said.
For 20 years, Stage Door Productions has put on local community and youth theater for everyone to enjoy. Beach said that this production, too, has value for all theatergoers: a talented cast, an immersive experience, educational value and a relatable story that is true to the original novel.
“I want audiences to leave feeling in awe,” Beach said. “I want people to leave the show enthralled with emotion down Caroline Street after the show. I want them to feel Jane’s journey so much that they’ll remember her years from now.”