Buffalo Theatre Ensemble puts on Austen-inspired 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley'

The Buffalo Theatre Ensemble launches its 2023-24 season with "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley," a sequel to Jane Austen's beloved novel "Pride and Prejudice."

The coming-of-age story by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon surrounds manners and the repercussions of superficial judgments. The show, set two years after the original story, highlights the bookish, stubbornly honest Mary Bennet (the middle Bennet sister and the plainest of her siblings) and her journey to find love after believing she never would.

The play, directed by Amelia Barrett, will preview on Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Playhouse Theatre at the McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 16 to Dec. 17, with two performances at 3 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25. There will be no performance Thanksgiving Nov. 23.

"Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" was originally produced in November 2016, simultaneously by Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Ill., Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Md., and Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, Calif. The production was one of the most produced plays in the United States in 2018 with 18 productions that year.

"Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have done an outstanding job at creating a wonderful, delightful, romantic holiday comedy that also incorporates the key messages of the season of the joy of family and helping others," says Barrett. "I know our audiences will love it, but I'm also excited to give them the opportunity to see this amazing cast featuring the next generation of stars of Chicago's theater scene."

The cast, culled from Chicago and the suburbs, features Katherine Abel (Anne de Bourgh), Whitney Dottery (Mary Bennet), Charlotte Foster (Jane Bingley), Robert Hunter Bry (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Danielle Kerr (Lydia Wickham), Paige Klopfenstein (Elizabeth Darcy), Daniel Millhouse (Arthur de Bourgh) and Benedict L. Slabik II (Charles Bingley).

The design team also includes Jess Kuehnau Wardell (scenic design), Aly Renee Amidei (costume design), Garrett Bell (lighting design) Christopher Kriz (sound design) and Rachel Lambert (properties design). Stage Manager is Sara West, with assistant stage manager Riley Skalski, and student assistant stage manager. The BTE Stage Management Scholar is Nick Washington.

Gunderson is an American playwright, screenwriter and short story author who was recognized by American Theatre magazine as America's most produced living playwright. Focusing on female figures in history, science and literature, Gunderson has held this title since 2016 and has had more than 20 plays produced including "I and You," "Emilie: La Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight," "Parts They Call Deep," "Background" and "We Won't Sleep."

Melcon, a dramaturg, administrator and writer, is director of new play development at the Marin Theatre Company. As a dramaturg, Melcon consults with playwrights and authors, and assists them in structuring new plays. Melcon has helped develop more than 30 productions.

Director Barrett has directed and served as dialect coach for multiple BTE productions, where she is associate artistic director and has been a member of the acting ensemble for the last 20 years. As an actor, she has appeared with other local, regional, and international companies. She is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association as well as the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting and a Graduate Certificate in Laban Movement Analysis. In addition, she is chair and a professor of theater at College of DuPage.

There will be an American Sign Language performance at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7. To purchase tickets for designated seating near the interpreters, please contact the box office.

Tickets are $44. For tickets or more information visit or call (630) 942-4000. The Box Office is open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and two hours prior to performance.

Note: this play contains adult themes and language.

A preshow discussion with director and designers will be held Thursday, Nov. 16 with a post-show discussion with director, actors and crew on Friday, Nov. 24.

The mission of Buffalo Theatre Ensemble is to provide a forum in which artists, scholars, writers, students and community members explore new ideas and provocative issues through the production of quality theater for the enjoyment of its audiences. Since 1986 BTE has staged more than 125 productions.

The professional Equity theater company in residence at the McAninch Arts Center is partially supported and funded by generous grants from Arts DuPage, Choose DuPage, College of DuPage Foundation, The Norm Woodel Inspiration Fund, the DuPage Foundation, Benevity, Illinois Arts Council Agency and the generous support of the College of DuPage Trustees and the McAninch Arts Center Staff.

BTE's 2023-24 season is dedicated to the memory of BTE friends Loretta Hauser and Michael J. McCoy, with deep appreciation.

Amelia Barret, director of "Miss Bennet"
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