This article originally appeared in Patrick Henry College's weekly student-run newspaper, The Herald.
Junior Gentry Shannon gently slapped freshman C.J. Lowe’s face, trying to mimic a forceful slap without causing “Mr. Collins” too much pain. They were rehearsing the scene from Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennett declines Mr. Collins' marriage proposal. The oblivious Mr. Collins simply thinks Elizabeth wants him to try harder.
Co-director Spencer Dalke was watching the rehearsal carefully when he recalled a conversation he’d had with Lowe about whether he was okay with the scene. “Oh yeah! Absolutely! Go all out,” Lowe had told him. Today was the day Dalke would hold Lowe to his statement. He asked Shannon to step aside and watch, walked up to Lowe, and demonstrated a proper, solid slap.
This was one of the many hilarious moments that emerged from the hours Eden Troupe members have poured into bringing their theatrical rendition of Pride & Prejudice to the PHC community.
Students and faculty caught glimpses of the production as they walk past the windows looking down on the racquetball courts. Dresses and props lined the floor as the actors practiced ballroom dancing in full costume. The air in the court became especially tense when they looked up and saw Dr. Mark Mitchell, the Academic Dean and a fan of Pride & Prejudice, observing their rehearsal.
The production showed from Thursday, April 21 through Saturday, April 23. It was the first Eden Troupe play to be held off-campus at Purcellville Baptist Church, only a short walking distance from campus.
“I wanted this to happen just so I could sit back and watch it,” said co-director Anna Fox. “My wing has been fan-casting PHC people for years now.”
Directors Fox and Dalke are delighted to see their excitement for the production spread not only to the PHC community, but also the local community after they put up posters in local grocery stores, coffee shops, churches, and schools.
Dalke sees the play as a learning experience for his future plans to work full-time in theater as an actor and director. He was surprised by the number of tiny details that goes into producing a play. He had to learn the balance between directing and micro-managing.
Joining Eden Troupe is sometimes discouraging because it can be time-consuming, but playing Elizabeth Bennett, the lead character, ended up being an unexpected outlet for Shannon. While it is challenging to play an iconic character with a wide range of strong emotions, Shannon has been able to explore a different side of herself. Playing a confident character like Lizzy has helped her in areas where she personally struggled.
“It’s been cool to see Eden Troupe serve as an outlet for stress as well as a community builder,” Shannon said. “The community that Eden Troupe provides is so incredible.”
On the other hand, this was not freshman Steven Traphagen's first time playing Mr. Darcy. During his sophomore year of high school, he also portrayed the reserved and stoic character. While parts of his personality fit with his character, this is not the case for everyone. Traphagen has enjoyed watching actors like Lowe and junior GraceAnna Schmidt, who plays Lydia Bennett, excel at portraying characters who are starkly different from their real-life personalities.
“PHC has taught me to pursue excellence in everything,” Schmidt said. “Flirtation is no exception.”