Q&A with ‘Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley’ Director Kimberly Senior
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Photo by Michael Brosilow.
While the Milwaukee Repertory Theater has treated audiences to a whopping 43 years and counting of A Christmas Carol, this season the powerhouse company is adding another holiday title to the docket.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, serves as a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This time, the nerdy and often forgotten middle child of the five Bennet sisters, Mary (Rebecca Hurd), takes the spotlight, and finds an unexpected romance of her own in fellow book worm Arthur de Bourgh (Jordan Brodess).
Miss Bennet picks up two years after Pride and Prejudice left off, with Mary’s older sister, Elizabeth (Margaret Ivey), hosting Christmas for her extended family at Pemberley, the ancestral home of Fitzwilliam Darcy (Yousof Sultani). Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam’s romance helped drive the plot of Pride and Prejudice.
The title marks the first all-female creative team in the Rep’s 65 year history, with direction by Kimberly Senior, scenic design by Courtney O’Neill, costume design by Mieka van der Ploeg, lighting design by Noele Stollmack and sound design by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca (Nok). Senior promised herself that she would only work with women designers for two years in order to provide more opportunities for these up and coming artists.
We asked Senior a few questions about her take on Miss Bennet, and what audiences can expect from the contemporary twist on these classic Jane Austen characters.
Rebecca Hurd as Mary Bennet. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
What is about the Miss Bennet script that spoke to you?
I instantly took to the comedy, the subtle anachronisms, and the powerful and surprising women!
What kind of approach do you plan to take with the piece?
I'm really looking forward to developing an ensemble with the amazing artists I've assembled. The play is so engaging and has a wonderful wink to that we are watching it in 2018 even though it takes place in the past. We are playing with that musically a bit and I am sure it will come through in the humor as well.
What are some challenges this script presents to you as a director?
The play definitely deals with public and private space—there is often more than one thing happening at a time. I want to make sure that the audience is able to take in both the whole world and these intimacies at once without it feeling like a three ring circus!
Do you feel a personal connection to the characters and the story?
I do! First of all, I'm a sister. And our sisterly collisions regarding values and the way we were raised versus the way we want to live our lives has colored most of our interactions these 40 years! I also love the feistiness of all the women- and that they get to take front and center stage is wonderful.
What do you think audiences will enjoy most about the production?
I think the humor is going to be really well-received and something we are in desperate need of. Also the production is visually stunning! And my actors are the finest in the business.
What do you look forward to most about the production?
I look forward to working at the Milwaukee Rep and getting to engage with the dynamic audience. Very happy to make people laugh and have that shared experience.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, presented by Milwaukee Repertory Theater, runs November 13 – December 16 at the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse, 108 East Wells Street. For tickets visit milwaukeerep.com or call the box office at 414-224-1761.