Southern Oregon Region

Jane Austen and Georgian and Regency Theatre
August 11, 2013

Living near the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival, naturally we wanted to know more about Jane Austen and the Theatre.  In answer to this interest, our Regional Coordinator and keen theatre-goer, Linda Thomas, gave us a fascinating and informative program about the history of the Regency theatre scene, its famous actors and actresses, the physical theater buildings, and our brilliant Jane’s adoration of all things theatrical—from her own early partaking in family theatricals as both actor and writer to her frequent attendance of popular theatre venues at London and Bath.

Using her own letters to outline and demonstrate her participation and insightful critiques of what she saw in London and Bath productions, we discovered how often popular actors’ names, fashionable theatres, and current and older plays are used in Jane’s novels to illustrate further her own characters’ lives, their situations and interactions.

Complimenting this program, Pat Mersman presented a sampling of celebrated theatre music and opera of the era including beautiful selections from John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera and Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes (mentioned in a letter Jane wrote in 1814) and a discussion of the Bel Canto style of singing.

—Victoria King

Beggar's Opera
Scene from Beggar’s Opera