July 18 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and from reading her novels to performing her play, BYU-I students are anxious to honor a well-known writer in classic literature.

This includes Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey being performed as a play by the BYU-Idaho Department of Theatre and Dance.

 

According to a summary on the BYU-Idaho College of Performing and Visual Arts webpage, Northanger Abbey features Catherine Moreland, the main character who would rather read Gothic mysteries than attend an 18th century cotillion, or formal ball.

“It was a really exciting way to enter into the BYU-Idaho theater world.”

Anna Chapman

a freshman studying art

According to the webpage, “A trip to the fashionable city of Bath places Catherine into society’s inner circle (where) she learns that relationships are just as full of twists and turns as those in her novels.”

Department of Theatre and Dance performed the adaptation of this classic novel June 27-29, and will perform it July 5-8.

This is a fast-paced, new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey which centers on an unconventional heroine, according to the webpage.

Anna Chapman, a freshman studying art, plays the role of Catherine Moreland, the lead role who has a deep passion for reading mysteries.

 

“Once I got cast, that was insane,” Chapman said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Chapman was cast in her last month of high school for her lead role, and said she is learning so much from being in the play.

“It was extremely eye-opening and really fun,” Chapman said. “It was a really exciting way to enter into the BYU-Idaho theater world.”

 

Dan Pearce, the associate dean of curriculum for BYU-I’s College of Language & Letters, said he has seen Jane Austen change his life.

“Her books have never gone out of print over the last two centuries, and that’s because the books are full of wisdom and insight on how to live more wisely, to be a better person,” Pearce said.

Pearce has been teaching at BYU-I for 25 years, and started a Jane Austen course 15 years ago that he teaches once a year. Through this, Pearce said he has developed a love for Jane Austen’s novels.

“The overarching theme that unites almost all of Jane Austen’s novels is this idea of growing self-awareness, that part of becoming a better person is becoming aware of our blind spots, having the determination and the honesty to own them, and then doing our best to change,” Pearce said.

 

In Fall semester 2016 and Winter semester 2017, Pearce has helped create the “Big Read,” a two-semester event similar to a campus-wide book club. The “Big Read” started Fall semester 2017 with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

“Jane Austen is still very popular, and we feel like it was successful,” Pearce said. “We were very pleased with the support and interest that we got.”

Pearce said Jane Austen’s stories are relevant to BYU-I students as they date and should be looked to for relationship guidance.

 

“If people would read Jane Austen, and what Jane Austen has to say about courtship and marriage, I think we’d have far many more couples who are happier and better off in healthy relationships.”

Dan Pearce

associate dean of curriculum for the College of Language & Letters

“If people would read Jane Austen, and what Jane Austen has to say about courtship and marriage, I think we’d have far many more couples who are happier and better off in healthy relationships,” Pearce said.

Whether students want to learn more about love or just enjoy a good read, Jane Austen gives writings that put a dainty spin on classic romance.