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3 Things I’ve Learned By Playing Charlotte Lucas

So, I’m in a play.

It’s a production of Pride & Prejudice set in the 1960′s. Think Austen meets Mad Men. It’s truly amazing and we opened last Friday (I’ll include all the details at the end of this post, as there are showings this weekend and I’d love for you to see it).

My role in said production is that of Charlotte Lucas, the 27 year old, practical to a fault,  best friend of Elizabeth Bennet who marries Mr. Collins to hightail it out of her parent’s house so that she won’t end up a spinster. She’s a lot of fun to play, especially because this production offers an interesting – and hilarious – take on the character.

Being Charlotte for the past few months has been an enlightening journey to say the least. I’d like to share some of my observations, if you don’t mind.

Pride & Prejudice at The Vintage Theater. Mandy Boyle as Charlotte Lucas.

Photo by Brent Pennington

1.) There are many kinds of happiness.

This piece on Charlotte’s marriage really says it best. Although Lizzie may not understand it, this is happiness for Charlotte. She chooses to pass over romance in marriage to secure a more comfortable life. In the book, her prospects – and future – is at stake. She’s 27. She’s on the fast track to spinsterhood. Marrying Mr. Collins not only helps her escape that fate, but it gives her a unique control over her own life in a way that she did not have before. Once, she was a prisoner of her social standing, family, and sex. Then, once married, she’s the mistress of her own home, able to make decisions for it as she chooses. She structures her day in a way that suits her (and allows for her to avoid her husband). She establishes a comfortable routine, that she herself has chosen, and is happier for it.

Happiness isn’t always an epic romance or a whirlwind journey. It’s not always dramatic or jarring. Sometimes, it’s quiet and seemingly not that exciting. Charlotte, in the book, seems happy with her situation. The way I portray her is just as gray as her perception in the book. Lizzie doesn’t understand or see Charlotte’s version of happiness because of her own prejudices and expectations. You’re not quite sure whether to be happy for Charlotte, accepting of her choices, or sorry for her future. It can be a mix of all three. In The Vintage Theater adaptation, the gray area Charlotte inhabits is one we’ve seen and felt before. Some may see trying to make the best of a situation. Others, pathetic.

From my interpretation, part of that area of grayness is from the change in time period. Were I to play Charlotte in Regency England, I’d be happy at the prospect of marriage because that was my best option. My only option, really.  In this adaptation, I’m less desperate, but I’m coping with my decisions in a particular way that earns a few laughs, but really, can be quite sad. But, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Mad Men, you’ve seen behaviors like Charlotte’s.

2.) Practicality has it place – but there are times when it’s taken too far.

Charlotte is intensely practical and many may argue that it’s her flaw. The life she chooses is rooted in acceptance and routine. She goes into her marriage with her eyes open, knowing what’s in store for her. She’s accepted her position and her future. Some may feel she’s making the best of a bad things and securing a future, while others feel she’s just resigned herself to settling. This is the part of Charlotte I relate to most.

I can be practical to a fault. I forget whimsy and play sometimes. I choose function over form, sometimes more often than I should. I lose perspective  when all I focus on is responsibility. Charlotte reminds me to not lose myself in my practical nature, to make time for those things which bring me joy, and to not settle for anything less than what I want. Dammit, I’m going to make ridiculous faces and walk around making obscene gestures backstage (really, I’m guilty of this x100). I’m going to give hugs and high fives. I’m going to remember to spoil myself on occasion and instead of asking for something I need, I’ll go for something I want. Because, sometimes, we just deserve to throw practicality out the window. Believe me, practicality will always stay with me, but I’ve remembered to make room in my life for impractical lovelies, too.

Pride & Prejudice at The Vintage in Scranton. Mandy Boyle as Charlotte Lucas and Anthony Melf as Mr. Collins

Photo by Brent Pennington

3.) When people do not act the way you expect them to, sometimes the fault in understanding is your own.

The scene where Charlotte announces her engagement to Lizzie is one of my favorites. There’s an electric pulse of emotion running through each line of dialogue as you watch two best friends completely overwhelm each other. Lizzie doesn’t fathom Charlotte’s choice and is upset that she’s making it to begin with. Charlotte feels judged for choosing her own destiny. It’s a short but powerful moment in the story. The emotions that run through me when it happens during every show are just…wow. It’s a smack in the face to everyone in the story and in the audience. And we all can relate to it. We’ve all been blinded by our own assumptions and expectations and sometimes, life flips you the bird or throws a bucket of ice water into your lap to wake you up again to realize that you’re not that powerful. Life will happen whether you like it or not – and missing it can be the fault of your own nearsightedness.

When I think about Charlotte and how she is in the book, I am both understanding and perplexed. The Charlotte I’m playing touches on only a few aspects of her character. Her practicality is there. Her friendship with Lizzie is there. Her acceptance and ability to craft a future for herself is there. But, there is a twist in this production, which is actually quite funny and sad at the same time when you see it play out. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that I’ve been given some comedic freedom in this role (which makes an already interesting character even more fun to play).

If Pride & Prejudice was set in the 1960′s, Charlotte’s behaviors – as I’m playing them – might be a bit more commonplace than one would think. You’ve seen Charlotte’s married life before. You’ve also seen how sometimes, when you’re not paying attention, you miss someone’s true character. You’ve also seen how everyone develops ways to both accept and cope while seeking that illusive thing we always seek: happiness.

This is what makes Pride & Prejudice so timeless: the realization that we’re all flawed, we all have something we can learn, and we are all seeking our own happy endings, in one way or another.

I’m honored to have been part of such an incredible cast, crew and creative team. There aren’t enough words to describe the feelings we’ve felt and the moments we’ve created together. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To those of you who have supported us, we are so grateful. We hope you’ll come to join us this weekend. Share a few moments to reflect on that beautiful and frustrating experience of being human with us. We know you’ll enjoy it.

Pride & Prejudice at The Vintage Theater in Scranton

The Vintage Theater Presents: Pride & Prejudice

What: Pride & Prejudice

When: Friday, May 17, 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 18, 2 and 8 p.m.

Extras: A “Wrap Up” dance party at The Vintage will follow the final show on May 18.

Details: Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $12 for general admission. Tickets are available online at www.scrantonsvintagetheater.com; over the phone at 507-9671; by emailing info@scrantonsvintagetheater.com; or at the Vintage Theater, 326 Spruce St.; Library Express, Mall at Steamtown; or Albright Memorial Library, 500 Vine St.

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25 for 25 – How It Went

25 years, 25 acts of kindness.

It was really uplifting to try to do something good with my time for my 25th birthday, but as my Aunt Lisa said when she heard about my project, “It’s better to do something nice just because and not have to tell everyone about it.” I agree. 

The reason I did 25 for 25 (and blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagramed my little heart out about it) was to try to spark others to do something nice in the spirit of celebration, but I do think it’s important to keep that kindness train rolling without having to tell the entire world. So, I will continue to do good turns without being found out and in the meantime, I’d like to share with you my journey through 25 acts of kindness. It’s overdue, but now seems like the perfect day because it’s the start of that feel good season when you just want to smile whenever you feel that warm sun on your face.

25 acts of kindness for 25 years

#25for25

My 25 for 25

1.) Right around Valentine’s Day, I left a bouquet of flowers on the car next to mine at the grocery store.

2.) Held the door for 10 people – no one quite knew how to handle that one.

2 and a half.)  I made fresh squeezed orange juice for Brent while he was in the shower. He only counts this as a half a good deed since I left the juicer in the sink.

3.) Wrote a long note to someone I haven’t talked to in awhile.

4.) Left a post it note of encouragement in a book at the library.

5.) Sent a bouquet of flowers to an old friend from high school that always finds ways to make me smile.

6.) Filled a row of bouncy ball and prize machines in the mall with quarters. Some kids will be happy!

7.) Smiled and made a “Hey There” gesture or said, “Hello!” to everyone I encountered that day.

8.) Donated $10 in the library donation jar at the Festival of Ice.

9.)  Brought my grandfather ice cream and had a nice visit.

10.)  Paid for the person behind me at the drivethru at Starbucks.

11.) Gave a really chubby cat in a bookstore a 3 minute back scratching.

12.) Brushed snow off of the car next to mine.

13.) Put a $20 bill into a donation bowl to support a cause I truly believe in.

14.) Helped a classroom on DonorsChoose.org

15.) Gave valentines and little Dove chocolate hearts to my coworkers. Because they’re awesome and they make every day I go into work a little brighter.

16.) Bought a coffee for a friend.

17.) Surprised a teenager waiting for her ride in the mall with a $15 iTunes gift card.  She smiled.

18.) Sent job listings to people I thought would be perfect for those positions.

19.)  Donated blood.

20.) Left a 50% tip.

21.) Wiped off my machine and the machine next to mine (after the person who left forgot to) at the gym.

22.) Gave 25 compliments to friends, family, and coworkers one week. Just because.

23.) Found a dollar in the parking lot and put it under someone else’s windshield wiper.

24.) Paid for a friend’s lunch, just because that person is super awesome.

25.) Gave a thinking of you card to someone who was having a rough start to her week.

26.) Filled the apartment with some fresh blooms. Just to make everything feel more sunny. This was more for me, but it made the world feel a little lighter whenever I stepped into my kitchen.

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Creativity Tool: Story Starter

Story Starter

I don’t really do much with fiction writing, but on the occasion that I decide to dabble (or if I just want to get my creative juices flowing), I turn to my regular swipe file of things to write about.

But sometimes, I run out of ideas. Or maybe I want to try something different. That’s where Story Starter comes in.

Simple, effective, and outrageously fun to use, Story Starter is a tool that gives you a prompt that you can frame a scene or story around. Just a line to get you going, but that line is chock full of details that can spider outward into a work of art.

Also, if you’re looking for a good laugh, the prompts can be quite funny.

Go ahead, give it a whirl: http://thestorystarter.com/

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Hobbies

Photo By: Sophie Thumser

I really suck at hobbies.

I tried painting, but I don’t have the patience.

I tried poetry, but I prefer reading it over writing it.

I tried crafts, but I just plain suck at those.

I aspire to be a hobbyist. Just ask my friends. I speak longingly of being a lady of leisure and hobbies, with plenty of time to learn programming, sewing, French, and piano.

However, like most of us, I work a 9 to 5 and actually, I’m quite happy with that at the moment.

But, there is the itch to have a hobby. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far to reconnect with a hobby that I’ve stuck with before.

A few weeks ago, I auditioned for a play – and I got a part.

In high school and college, I ran with the theater crowd and got to take part in quite a few productions. My fondest memories of high school involved the auditorium.

Whether it was a play, a practice, a rehearsal, a poorly choreographed rendition of “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”, the auditorium was where I made my friends, fell in love, felt heartbreak, connected with something bigger, touched the fringes of being confident, and discovered more about who I was and what was important to me. Formative years, indeed.

But it’s not my first love or what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s fun. It’s an escape. It’s a chance for me to flex a different set of creative muscles. It’s a hobby.

Much like my attention span, this is a hobby that will come in short, focused bursts. It’ll eat up a lot of time, but will have a finite duration.

Perfect.

Tonight is the first rehearsal.

Old friend, I’ve missed you.

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My First Phone Number Request

Photo By: Alan Mays

So, I’ve never actually been asked for my phone number by a complete stranger before. It’s never happened.

The closest I got was when I was 14 and I went to Medieval Times with one of my good friends and the guy working the souvenir counter slid a sheet of paper across the glass with his name and number on it. He had long hair and wore tights with Converse shoes. I dug it. I actually ended up calling him too, which got really creepy. Never mind the fact that I was in PA and he lived in MD, he has a girlfriend who he gave some sort of crystal gift to that he felt the need to tell me about, I was the most awkward teenager ever, I still hadn’t hit puberty and wasn’t aware of how to be a female, he said he didn’t like school and wanted to drop out, but I digress. It was only one phone call because it was too weird, by the way.

My dating history is vanilla at best, so imagine my surprise when I got asked for my number in the grocery store this week.

It started in the bread aisle, as these things often do, as I had glanced down at my list. I didn’t need bread and wasn’t entirely sure what I needed in the same aisle, but I figured I’d make a pass to jog my memory. As I pulled my cart to the side and started to dig into my pocket for the list, a boy approached. He couldn’t have been more than 13 or so.

“Excuse me, miss?” he asked.

“Yes?”

“Do you go to Scranton High?”

“I’m sorry, no.”

[Insert long awkward pause]

“Oh, so, um…are you a grown up?”

“Yes.”

This was now turning into one of the most awkward experiences of my life. What did this kid want? Maybe he thought he knew me from somewhere, which is fine, but the whole exchange was just so unexpected.  After that, he walked to the end of the aisle and turned the corner. I went further down the aisle, then he returned.

“So, um…do you mind if I get to know you better?”

I thought for a second. I didn’t know what to say, so naturally, I said, “Okay, sure!”

What am I getting myself into?

“My name’s Jamal. I like to play basketball, go to the movies, read a lot, stuff like that.”

“Nice! My name’s Mandy. I like to read and watch movies also.”

Another long awkward pause.

“So, do you think you could give me your number and maybe I could call you some time?”

Oh. My. God.

WHAT DO I SAY TO THIS KID?!

I had to have turned about 50 shades of red. This whole situation just screamed uncomfortable. How do I let him down easy so that he doesn’t get depressed and drop out of school and blame the girl  that he got up the stones to ask for her number but she said no because she was a grown up?! (This is what happens in my crazy brain. I still feel terrible about this whole thing.)

“I’m sorry, but no, as I’m quite a bit older than you, but it was very nice to meet you!”

He looked heartbroken.

I felt terrible.

I still feel terrible.

I wish I would have said something motivating before he walked away.

“Hey Jamal, keep your chin up! Keep reading!”

I really do hope he keeps reading and watching movies, though, because he seemed like a nice kid. You’re too young to be picking up girls at the Giant, buddy. Focus on school and you’ll find the right girl some day.

 

 

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