Opera, movies, zombies, ice skating are all part of Jane Austen takeover of Modesto
See the original Modesto Bee article by Deke Farrow HERE
“Pride and Prejudice,” as a novel and as a board book, is discussed at a 244th birthday party for Jane Austen at the Modesto Library on Dec. 16, 2019.
Jane Austen’s takeover of Modesto began quietly enough this fall: An emphasis on her works by LearningQuest-Stanislaus Literacy Centers for its adult learners. A 244th birthday party for the English novelist in a downstairs room of the downtown library. An escape room, also at the library, with puzzles designed to inspire participants to read her works and learn more about her life.
Soon, though, it will take to the streets, the stage, the silver screen and even a skating rink. And it won’t be over until the slender lady sings.
It’s a Jane-vasion, with Opera Modesto and its production of the opera “Mansfield Park” at the center.
Opera Modesto board member Hillari DeSchane long has wanted to do an opera based on a work by Austen, said Roy Stevens, the company’s general and artistic director. Her wish is coming true thanks to “Mansfield Park,” a 2011 chamber opera by composer Jonathan Dove, based on Austen’s third novel, published in 1814.
Stevens said he and his opera-singer wife, Annalisa Winberg, who is Opera Modesto’s artistic consultant, saw a way to stage the work primarily using members of the company’s TOP Young Artists program. Before long, “we realized we had a potential catalyst to do something more with the community,” he said.
That “something more” ended up being the Story Into Song Literacy Initiative, for which Opera Modesto has partnered with LearningQuest, the Stanislaus County Library, the State Theatre, the Becoming Jane Austen Book Club (of which DeSchane is a member), city and county schools and the Downtown Modesto Partnership, among others.
The initiative is a great way to build excitement around literature and the arts, said library director Sarah Dentan. “We’re excited to partner with Opera Modesto to promote books and reading, as well as the arts and humanities,” she told The Bee in an email. “By offering complementary events at the library, we can extend our existing fan base, and perhaps introduce readers to storytelling through song.”
Built around the opera production Jan. 11-12 at the State, a so-called destination weekend also includes a Friday, Jan. 10, presentation by the State’s Late Night Horror Film series of the 2016 movie “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” preceded by a zombie walk costume parade across the theater’s stage. The next evening will bring a screening by the Book to Film Club of 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice” starring Laurence Olivier, preceded by a lecture/discussion led by Arnold Schmidt, a professor of English at Stanislaus State.
A Jane Austen convention, called Jane Con, will include activities both that Saturday and Sunday. Among the first day’s events are a Regency Period arcade of “unique, artisanal, handcrafted or locally sourced gifts” on the library portico, an All Things Jane information session inside, and the lectures/workshops “Gowns and Groans: A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage,” “ Defining the Definitive Darcy,” “Starting Your Own JA Book Club” and Dressing the Regency Lady.”