Classic literature and theater lovers can have something to look forward to this month as Zion Theatre Company is performing Jane Austen's Persuasion, adapted by award winning playwright Melissa Leilani Larson. The show performs in Salt Lake City at the Off Broadway Theater on Sept. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, and 22 at 7:30 pm.
Jane Austen has had enduring popularity and resonance, despite the couple of centuries that have passed since her debut as a novelist. The director of Persuasion, Sarah Stewart, is one of the many who have been passionate fans of Austen, so she bring a personal investment into the production, "My introduction to Jane Austen happened at the ripe old age of nine when I stumbled across the 1940's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on late night television. I was completely captivated and never forgot it. I didn't realize it was a book until I received it three years later as a Christmas present. Once again, I had the peculiar delight of being swept into Jane's world, and thus began my life-long passion for all things Jane Austen. I consider her a dear friend-just one haven't actually met."
Popular and talented local playwright Melissa Leilani Larson has also been an avid fan of Austen through her life, "Jane Austen's legacy has endured for generations because she tells real, honest, relatable stories-and she does so with a distinct voice. I love so many things about Persuasion-its naturalness, its relationships, its humor-all of which have been a pleasure and privilege to adapt for the stage. At the novel's core is a quietly beautiful love story that, I believe, has the power to haunt people, much as it haunts its characters. I love the novel, and I feel strongly that this is a faithful adaptation of Austen's work; I hope that audiences will feel the same."
Persuasion was the last story Jane Austen completed in its entirety before her death. Although it is not as recognizable as some of her other work, such as Pride and Prejudice, many consider Persuasion to be Austen's most mature, emotionally powerful and best story.
Director Stewart said, "Pride and Prejudice reigned supreme when I was young, but having lived long enough to experience life not turning out how I'd planned, Persuasion speaks to some of the deepest levels of my heart. This play is about mistakes and regret. It is also about forgiveness and second chances. It works us through our regrets (which everyone has) and says 'Hold on. Don't sell out. Keep making good choices and even when all seems to be lost, everything will work out.' It's a refined and comforting pep talk to all of us who are saddened by our 'what ifs' and 'could've been's.'"
The Off Broadway Theater is located at 272 South Main Street, Salt Lake City. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at theobt.org or by calling 801-355-4628. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $9 for students/seniors, and $6 for children.
Pictured: Ronnie Stringfellow as Anne Elliott and Stringfellow with Alice Johnson as Mary Musgrove. Photos by Naoma StewArt Photography.