Etiquette- and That's the Tea! by Eleanor Mancini {Photo Credit: Davis Clem}

As time and time before, the thespians of KCHS have begun their preparations for this season’s play. With dragging out old costumes, and assuming the roles of various old widows and gossips alike, this year’s play cast is facing a totally new challenge- how to gossip.

Or rather, how to gossip, in the way of a Regency Period Victorian woman would. Yes, this season’s play is Sense and Sensibility, based on the novel by Jane Austen.

While Austenites and anglophiles have expressed their excitement for the upcoming play, showing on Oct. 25-27, those involved knew this story would take something more. This play would require a breakdown of the common character, not just an assumption of its traits, but a true understanding of the culture and context.

Ms. Majors-Rankin, Senior Alex Dally, and choral director Mr. Holloway, carefully planning

Thus, Ms. Majors-Rankin, lovingly called “Ms. M-R", enlisted the help of known classicists Ms. Nikki Mynatt and Ms. Joan Williams to hold etiquette training for the cast and crew.

To truly conquer the art of the Victorian woman, Ms. Mynatt says, is to understand what it means to be a true, successful woman of the time. Success, to the modern day, is simple. It is to have happiness, wealth, education, or accomplishments. This is precisely the reason Ms. M-R called in for backup on this one.

seniors Rachel Watermeir and Andrea Subtirelu, in character, enjoying the niceties of Victorian England. Photo by Davis Clem

To truly get into to character, one must know more than lines, one has to understand that in the regency period, a successful woman is not one of education or confidence, she is one who is an exceptionally talented crocétee, conversationalist, and musician. An exceptional young woman can draw, dance, and ride side-saddle. Archery always helps too.

Seniors Rachel Watermeir and Andrea Subtirelu. Photo by Eleanor Mancini

This is the context with which each actor is faced. A character might seem like one thing on paper, but there is so much depth hiding behind the subtleties.

“A simple side glance or sigh at tea may mean little to us, but so much more to them,” Ms. Mynatt said. Mynatt wants to highlight “the life and nuances of regency era England. How language can sometimes be coded. How the most subtle movement can have greater meaning. How to eat, how to converse, and what is socially acceptable and not.”

Ms. Mynatt advises senior Sophie Susano

Thus, a crucial afternoon of training and charms commenced.

As a busy Wednesday came to a close, Ms. M-R sat hand-sewing junior Katie Orillion’s blue gown. Orillion, set to be a middle-aged woman living in the country side, is especially excited to use this time to work on her British accent, which she learned in middle school, “for A Christmas Carol... it definitely needs some work,” Orillion claimed before the afternoon began.

She, like other members of the cast, highlight how hard it is to master gossip, while also maintaining composure, and a British accent.

“I am Ms. Jennings, an old woman with 37 dogs, which is like my goal in life, so that’s nice. She has a son-in-law, Sir John, who’s her gossip partner-in-crime of this play,” Orillion said.

There are certain characters in this play referred to as gossips, and Orillion highlights the difficulty of being a gossip, without being a “Gossip”.

“The ‘Gossips’ of this play are like mean gossips, and [my character] has the best intentions, I hope.” Orillion said her struggles haven’t been due to the Victorian English gossipy flair, but the difficulty of how to due so in a “nice” fashion, especially in an English accent.

Ms. Mynatt advises on the subtleties of one's affect.

Emma Kollie, cast as one of these ‘Gossips’, says that her role is more important than just comedic relief. When these characters are not mentioning other characters, they use their banter to allude to Austen’s characters from other major novels. This role highlights the importance of understanding the time period, especially in relationships and families.

Students have to help each other to conquer their characters. Here, seniors Sophie Susano and Rachel Watermeir fit one another's costumes.

Like Orillion and Kollie, senior Guadi Fanelli is excited about the challenges this play has faced.

Fanelli, cast as a middle-aged widow, has had to face her modern ways to fully embrace the task at hand.

“I’m really struggling with character development, especially because I can’t relate to a forty-year-old widow. So, I just hope this gets me into the feel of the whole time period, and just feel what it would be like to be a ‘proper’ woman of the 1790s.” She continues, “I’m a very modern person,” she says, “So this has definitely been a challenge, though it’s exciting.”

With the quote “There is no charm equalness to tenderness of heart” from Emma, Ms. Majors-Rankin sets the tone of the discussion. She wants to remind her students that though they are playing traditional, and maybe conservative, characters, they are not limited to these boundaries.

“Jane Austen’s characters are about pushing the boundaries,” M-R says. Though they lived in a time of verbal suppression and unwritten restrictions, Austen’s characters highlight what it means to be truly human, what it means to truly be happy, and to love. And Ms. M-R wants them to embody this.

With the understanding of the culture’s certain of measures of suppression, the actors and actresses will be more able to understand where to be witty, where to push the limit, and how to express emotion.

Come see the show at 7 p.m. on October 25th, 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. on October 26th, or 6 p.m. on October 27th.

Seniors Rachel Watermeir and Andrea Subtirelu, cast in this fall's play. Photo by Davis Clem

Tickets are on sale at https://kchstheatre.eventbrite.com