Both Ashley Bufkin and Simone Recasner didn’t think there was a place for them in “Pride and Prejudice.”
But when the actresses received the script to portray two of the main characters—sisters Lizzy and Jane Bennett—they both knew this was their chance to help bring the classic tale into the 21st century.
“What intrigued me most about ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was the director,” explained Bufkin, who hails from Las Vegas. “I knew the story of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ we’ve all read the book and saw the Keira Knightly movie so I immediately thought there wasn’t a place for me, so I wasn’t that intrigued to do the story. But when I realized the director was a minority woman I was immediately intrigued because I said, ‘Whoa, a person of color is directing this project’ number one, and number two, it was a woman who doesn’t normally get a lot of shine in this industry.”
Recasner agreed. “I know the playwright from New York (I don’t know her personally) but I see that they take stories and make them more modern. I saw that they were going to be going for a more diverse cast than the 1813 original story would suggest,” she said.
Recasner, who recently earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University, is the daughter of actor Ron Recasner. “I am a mixed race, curvy woman who is younger in my career and I have never had the opportunity to be at the center of a story, so I’m really excited to be playing Lizzy.”
Recasner continued: “At the end of the day Lizzy is really terrified. She’s very smart. She decides to change the circle of trust that she has when she marries. She loves her sisters and her family.”
Written by Kate Hamill and directed by Desdemona Chiang, this wild adaptation of the Jane Austen classic tells the story of the Bennett sisters who are in a rush to find men to marry in order to save the family estate, save for Lizzy who’d rather risk the family fortune than go on a second date with her suitors.
“Pride & Prejudice” runs at the O’Reilly Theater through October 28. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.ppt.org or by calling 412-316-1600. The production is sponsored by Highmark.
“This adaptation is so much more playful and it’s not as rigid and strict a style as you would typically see the story told in,” said Bufkin, who portrays the beautiful, demure and bashful Jane. “The vibe is the same but there is a lot of movement and it’s very joyous. It’s not a museum piece. Jane is a hopeless romantic. She truly believes in the idea of being swept up by a prince charming. She’s had the experience of being courted a few times and she’s just waiting.”
Both actresses hope African Americans who come see the show walk away knowing that they can relate to the humanity in each character.
“We do have a place in these stories and if anything, our voice or our presence in these stories can act as a beacon to other young people of color,” Bufkin said, “and show them that you have the capability to relate to these people. At the end of the day they are people and they are going through these experiences and there’s no reason why we can’t believe that we are capable of those experiences and delivering these powerful performances. Our voices deserve to be heard in these stories.”
Recasner believes the romantic component will resonate with Black audiences.
“The two female love interests in the story are African American women and these girls are gorgeous and have been proposed to by multiple men. Ultimately it’s a love story and I hope people can relate to the romance and women having relationships with men and the relationships women have in society. In this show women have such small room for error and at the end of the play you see a lot of characters who thought they understood what perfection was and it’s turned on its head.”
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