|The Bennet Sisters (L to R): |
Lydia – Hosanna Phillips; Mary – Autumn Bryson; Jane – Crystal Nemchak; and Lizzy – Stephaney Vietor
PHOTO: Paul Manoian
In Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley – an imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – the Bennet sisters discover new bonds, and bookish middle-sister Mary becomes the unlikely heroine. Tired of being the dutiful middle sister, Mary hopes for independence, an intellectual match, and possibly love, in this romantic comedy set in 1800s England at Christmas time.
In the Farmington Players production, Autumn Bryson plays Mary: “She often feels like the odd one out. Mary feels she is bound to a life of caring for her parents and is devastated at the thought of never experiencing the world. Mary is such a captivating character, and yet she can be quite challenging; she is intelligent, talented, beautiful in her own way, but she also doesn’t bow down to anyone. She is fire and ice.”
In addition to Mary, the other Bennet sisters include Lizzy, played by Stephaney Vietor, Jane (Crystal Nemchak), and Lydia (Hosanna Phillips). Hosanna is herself a middle child, and has thought a lot about birth order: “I relate a lot to Mary’s character when she speaks about feeling a lack of definition. Especially when I was younger, I often struggled to know where it was that I could ‘fit in’ and belong. … Much of the time I felt overlooked because I was never quite as good at things as my older siblings, or nearly as cute as my younger ones.” Ultimately, Hosanna has “learned to be grateful for who I am and where I have been placed in my family because I cannot change my birth order or what anyone might assume because of it. What I CAN change is how I view myself and who I allow myself to become, whether if fits a stereotype or not.”
Crystal observes that the sisters’ obligations also varied with birth order: “The older you are, the more responsibility you have to your family. You are an ambassador of your name in this time period, so your actions must be highly calculated. As a woman especially, you are expected to be cunning and charming so you may ensnare a wealthy and highly sought after bachelor. This ensures the survival of your parents and your siblings, and your happiness unfortunately didn't often have much to do with it. Elizabeth was quite a trailblazer in refusing to compromise her happiness.”
Stephaney sums us the sisterhood theme nicely: “The sisters fall in love with each other just as much, if not more than you see with the men. As Lizzy says to Jane, ‘I like Mary; is it terrible to admit I didn’t know I did?’ I feel that the sisters have had time apart to really grow into who they are as their own person. So that when they all come back together they discover that they get along better and that they are insanely strong women.”
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from December 6 - 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.