Posted on 19 April 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal
At La Habra High School’s Pitlockry Hall a young female actress, part of the theater guild, releases soothing notes from her chest into the air, warming her voice to prepare for a long four-hour rehearsal.
The stage crew scurries on the set, dragging antique furniture around and placing stage props in a meticulous fashion, while other teenage students ramble on about normal high school gossip — awaiting instruction.
And at the sound of the teacher’s command the young actors and stage crew scramble to their positions. The dull room lights turn off; the vivacious stage lights illuminate the set, and in a whim the theater students transform into Victorian era Britons.
In its final production of the school year, beginning this Friday, the LHHS Theater Guild presents to the community — after a month of preparation — J.R. Sullivan and Joseph Hanreddy’s adaption of Jane Austen’s nineteenth century novel “Pride and Prejudice.”
“It’s a complicated love story,” Brian Johnson, LHHS theater director and teacher, said. “Our kids have worked really hard, and I’m excited to see what it looks like on Friday night.”
In her debut performance LHHS junior Juliette Stryker, 16, takes on the lead role of Elizabeth Bennet, displaying the grace and charm of the prideful character Austen created during a period when the female’s voice was seldom heard.
Stryker’s subtle acting yields truthfulness and a believable character, Johnson said about why he chose the budding actress as the lead role in her first ever production.
“She’s really charming to watch,“ he said.
The young student actress touts Austen’s leading female personality as an admirable character, praising her strength.
“Elizabeth is my role model,” Stryker said. “If there is anyone who I would love to meet, like a character out of a book, it would be Elizabeth Bennett because she’s … way ahead of her time.”
Complimented with this female role is another prideful yet wealthy masculine character.
Cast as the male lead in the play, senior Bernie Hefner, 17, is in his third year as an actor for the theater guild and finds the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy difficult because of the complexity of the text.
“It’s a really literate text, and it takes a lot of talent,” Hefner said, although he appreciates this version. “I think this adaption … explains the text without dragging it on so much.”
Darcy professes to find Elizabeth intolerable throughout the story, while Elizabeth’s feeling is mutual. But throughout the novel both characters run into each other eventually developing a relationship.
In typical British fashion, class plays a role in how the two characters pertain to feel about each other. Darcy is in the wealthy upper class while Elizabeth dwells below in the social hierarchy.
“I’m known in this as the original bad-boy, I guess. And the girl falls for the bad-boy,” Hefner said about Darcy’s character.
“At first they hate each other because they see that they are equally matched,” Stryker said. “But there’s like this weird attraction that they don’t quite understand, and they end up being together.”
In his ninth year at the helm of the theater guild, Johnson feels the year has been successful, raking in close to $100,000 in ticket sales.
“The audiences have responded well to our productions this year,” Johnson said about the guild. “There’s been a lot of buzz about the work we’re doing here.”
And although young Hefner describes the hard work the theater guild offers as tedious, he feels the stress of learning from the guild offers satisfaction with the results it produces. However, the weeks of preparation from the youthful theater students seem to be yielding an enjoyable production, able to propel theatergoers into the midst of the nineteenth century with intelligent English accents and witty humor.
The production opens on April 19 at Pitlockrey Hall in LHHS and proceeds to play on April 20, 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. with matinees available on April 20 and 27.