Elyse Sharp & MISS BENNET – A Homecoming
Posted on December 20, 2017
There is one question that I keep being asked over and over about working on Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. It isn’t how do we learn how to behave like Regency characters out of Jane Austen’s novels (answer: we have an amazing team who work behind the scenes researching and bringing us answers when we have questions about the period) or how did we learn how to do British accents (answer: we work on them with a coach and have linguistic guidelines that we learn, in addition to watching or listening to British television or radio). No, the question I’ve been asked most often is:
What is it like being back at Capital Stage?
Simply, it is like coming home.
The idea of coming home and all that it entails is central to Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. Throughout the show, Mary Bennet struggles to reconcile the woman she longs to become with the girl her family expects her to be, all the while discovering possibilities she thought inaccessible to her. Like Mary, there are times when I find myself easily falling back into old habits from my time as an apprentice. A muscle memory takes over, and all of a sudden, I am refilling the toilet paper and paper towels in the backstage bathroom.
Throughout Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, each beloved Austen character is given the opportunity to grow and change. Within the three and a half years since I graduated from my apprenticeship program, Capital Stage has changed in so many incredible ways. The new rehearsal, classroom, and office spaces at CLARA are a luxury we had only begun to dream of when I was last here. It makes such a difference in the process to have a dedicated space that is for your show instead of trying to figure out your show on the set of another during the first week of rehearsals. It’s also great to not have to jaywalk across J Street as much.
The CapStage family has also grown to include new staff and four classes of apprentices. It’s been wonderful to be welcomed back by them as well as to catch up with the family members who were here during my apprenticeship. Through the wonder of social media, I also get to see daily reminders of what exactly I was doing exactly three and half years ago: wearing an elf costume as a crew member for certain performances of The Santaland Diaries. It makes me wonder where this year’s apprentices (two of whom are currently helping keep our show running every night while others are already hard at work on building the world of The Nether meanwhile all working to find a script for their upcoming showcase) will be three and a half years from now.
Ultimately, while Mary wants her family to recognize her worth and to be able to live beyond what is expected for a woman of her time, at the end of each performance, I just hope I’ve made my CapStage family proud.