Elgin will play host to two of the most prolific writers in the English language this summer through the works of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.
The Janus Theater Company will perform their work in repertory beginning Friday, June 29, and continuing through July, at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St.
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If you goWhat: Janus Theater Company Summer Rep Series 2012: Austen in Elgin (Shakespeare on Division), featuring "Pride and Prejudice" and "Two Gentlemen of Verona"
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. June 29 through July 22
Where: Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St.
Tickets: $15 online, $17 by phone
Details: Visit janustheater.com or call (847) 841-1713 for details or to reserve tickets
"Pride and Prejudice," adapted by Jon Jory, will premiere this weekend, under the direction of Marge Uhlarik-Boller. "Two Gentleman of Verona" will begin two weeks later on July 13. While traditional repertory theater rotates two to three plays nightly, the Janus Theater Company will only stage back-to-back performances of the plays on Saturdays, July 14 and 21, in order to be more cost-efficient and focused. But Janus' artistic director Sean Hargadon said this hasn't deterred the company's mission: to deliver top-notch theater.
"(The plays are) just summer fun -- that's what summer theater is," he said. "They're both classics and both plays have deeper themes than just laughs."
Hargadon also stressed that though the plays are both classics, audiences shouldn't fear not understanding the dialogue. "Pride and Prejudice" has been staged to move quickly like a film, while "Two Gentlemen of Verona" was adapted by director Terry Domschke to take place in 1960s Italy.
"You never want to see a Shakespeare play and say, 'what happened?'" Hargadon said. "This really lends new life to an old play. It almost takes on a new meaning, giving an update to a classic like that."
Actors for the repertory series come from all over Chicagoland; many are new to the area, hoping to get their start in theater, Hargadon said.
Though Janus is a 501c3 nonprofit company, its actors are paid, and for many it is their first professional job. Domschke said for his play in particular, the energy and newness of some of the actors is an asset.
"The actors in this case have shown an exceptional spryness," he said. "It's really the right people casted in right parts and there's a big sense of camaraderie. I think that energy translates to the stage."
"Two Gentlemen of Verona" centers around a complicated string of affections, including two young men vying for the same girl's heart, a plot device which Domschke pointed out translates to the modern era perfectly.
"Pride and Prejudice" centers around a young woman who eventually falls for the man she thought she hated, therefore laying aside her pride.
Uhlarik-Boller, director of the show, said the themes of "Pride and Prejudice" are still very relatable today, and she hopes audiences learn from the story of Elizabeth Bennet.
"Everyone knows what it's like to discover we've brought both our own baggage and preconceived notions into a new relationship. It's universal."
More than the plot, Hargadon said Austen's characters remain steadfast over the near 200 years since their inception.
"Austen writes strong female characters," he said. "They are strong, powerful women. They're smart, savvy and educated. They also have a way they get what they need and getting what they want."
Though some situations may seem antiquated in modern day America, Hargadon said, many underlying themes are still true. Both Hargadon and Uhlarik-Boller said the production is entertaining and comedic, though Austen may not be perceived as such at first glance.
Alternatively, Shakespeare, while also known for his tragedies, first gained acclaim for his comedies like "Two Gentlemen of Verona." Domschke said this strength in the play will translate to the stage, and to the audience.
"This is a fast-paced show with freewheeling fun," he said. "It's an easier play to grasp than many since this one carried quite a lot by the situation."
Uhlarik-Boller said "Pride and Prejudice" will also be fast-paced for the benefit of the audience, replacing some of the plot with the characters narrating the action. She said this approach will engage audience members through better understanding.
"Although Elgin is a very cry from 19th century England, everyone can relate to the experiences of the Bennet family as they seek and find love within a very class-driven society."
Tickets for the productions are on sale now at janustheater.com for $15, or by phone at (847) 841-1713. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.