Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

May 2, 2006

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Filed under: Bronteana,Fan Letters,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:48 am

Caution: Books Ahead

This article is delightful.

Some books, perhaps, should come equipped with warnings.“Caution: This text could change your life.” “Attention: Reading can be hazardous to entrenched opinions.”Or maybe just a simple, “Warning: Do not try this at home.”

“Dear Mr. Lewis,Closet walls hurt. I'm not sure whether there is any significant difference between the pliability of the back of your wardrobe and the back of my closet, but I can personally attest to the immovability of my closet's walls. I learned this after throwing my 8-year-old body full force against this rigid impediment, hoping that velocity would somehow allow me to break out into Narnia.”

What young Calli Strellnauer failed to appreciate was that she needn't crash into closets to reach Narnia. No, all she had to do was pick up a book and turn the page.It is something the high schooler has done countless times over the decade or so since she first explored that closet full force. But no matter how many pages she's turned, Calli cannot forget the impact author C.S. Lewis had on her young life.

And what does Narnia have to do with the Brontës? Aside from Georgie Henley playing Young Jane Eyre in the new BBC production? Well, that, my friends, will have to wait for another post…

In the five years Montana has been participating in Letters About Literature, they've been responding to J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, to Montana writer Ben Mikaelsen, to Dr. Seuss and to outdoor-adventure writer Gary Paulsen.

But they've also responded to the likes of Charlotte Bronte, who, were she still living, would have received a letter this spring from Kalispell's McKenzie Javorka, a letter that earned her second place among Montana's seventh- and eighth-graders.

Her parents were going through a rough patch when McKenzie found Bronte, she wrote, and her big sister was heading off to college.

“I found myself alone, anxious and unhappy.”

Then along came “Jane Eyre,” and “as I finally closed the (book) and turned out my light, I felt an emotion I had thought was lost to me forever: peacefulness.”

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Jane Eyre the Musical: Irving, Texas Fan Review

Brontëana reader, Rinabeana, has taken the time to write her impressions of the production now playing in Irving Texas (details here). This is a long excerpt from her review at the League of the Extraordinarily Rochester Obsessed, which explains some of the short cuts here. If possible I will post the rest in a convenient way.

The prelude is a backlit stage with Rochester calling Jane, Jane, Jane across the moors. I was about to have a heart attack thirty seconds into the show I was so excited! The basic set was a large ramp platform, with additional ramps leading to each side of the stage. The large central ramp was tilted to the side so one side of the front end had a step and the other went down to the stage. They lowered windows and doors and moved furniture often to set the different scenes. It was fairly sparse, but you could definitely get the idea. If I recall correctly, the original production had a giant circular rotating stage, but that was definitely not the case here. Much lower budget, I imagine.

I don't know how many of you have seen the show, but I was absolutely SHOCKED at how much music was not included in the original cast recording. I'd say that at least half of the songs were new to me. I marked all the new material with stars on the program (which I scanned and included below) and it's a lot! Plus, there is quite a bit of dialogue without music. I was overjoyed that much of that was straight out of the text! Imagine my glee when Rochester referred to Jane's "fairy ring" and the "men in green"! Pretty much all of Mrs. Fairfax's additional songs were to the tunes of Perfectly Nice and Slip of a Girl. In fact, I didn't hear a lot of new music, just lots of new lyrics. They definitely put the most important songs on the original cast recording. WHY COULDN'T THEY INCLUDE IT ALL, THOUGH??? I was sold at the scene after Hay Lane when Rochester sings Captive Bird while inspecting Jane (by sort of gimping around her) and it was positively smoldering! WHEW! Also, if you aren't familiar with the story (which doesn't apply to anyone here of course), it's quite choppy to go from Perfectly Nice to As Good As You. I love the in between stuff!

I think one of my favorite parts with Jane is definitely Painting Her Portrait. I know this is a community for the Rochester love, and I do like his and his and Jane's songs the best, but I still adore Jane. Painting Her Portrait so perfectly encapsulates her passion and inner turmoil. It's perfect that no one else is involved in the scene at all because she rarely lets anyone else see her emotion. The actress did a great job fiercely drawing and then tearing the pictures when she was done. My poor Jane!

The Gypsy scene cracked me up! I definitely got a feel for how it would be staged from listening to the original cast recording, but it's so fun to see Rochester in his woolen shawl and floppy hat mocking all the snippy girls! They certainly played up their parts, huffing away when he insulted them. Blanche nearly had a temper tantrum, which was fabulous! And who couldn't love the part when he reveals his identity to Jane? I did think it kind of went too far when he asked her how Blanche reacted and Jane told him that she flounced off looking upset. Our smart Jane would have realized that he was playing a trick on her and not been quite so incredulous at the proposal. It was funny, though.

I already mentioned the St. John part, but I can't stress enough how much I disliked the set-up. That's really my only major complaint with the show. Jane NEVER fell for him and he certainly didn't love her! The implication was that she had given up on Edward and was all set to go to India as a wife. There was no psychological manipulation and then the twit tells her she's formed for labour and everyone is on to his game. I think that's why everyone laughed, since the set-up was so incongruous with the denouement in that scene. Of course everyone was rooting for Rochester, even if they didn't know the story! The Voice Across the Moors always gives me chills anyway. I wanted to shove St. John off the stage because he's so extraneous there! HEE!

The return to Thornfield was amazing. After Fairfax explained what had happened, Robert helped the blind (and disfigured!) Rochester to a little bench. That nearly broke my heart. Though Jane didn't sit on his lap (pooh!) the chemistry between them in this scene was wonderful! I totally lost it when Rochester sang to the baby, too! Of course, after that the baby got whisked off stage (through Jane, then Adele, then the maid/nurse) right quick! If it wasn't for Jane's ridiculous huge puffy sleeved dress, that scene would have been perfect!

From the program it also looks like severals songs were renamed. Before Jane leaves Thornfield, the song 'Sirens reprise' has been renamed 'Sail Away' which sounds like an '80's pop tune… Other items from the review: the audience appears to be aware of Bertha before Jane is. The audience sees Bertha attack her brother, but it is the butler not Jane who tends Mr Mason. There was also an unwise blending of the characters of Miss Scatcherd and Miss Temple- not a doubling, a blending, and St.John was unappealing but vaguely a love-interest (which disturbs this fan and others in the audience who burst out laughing at him).

ETA: Ah, also, Rinabeana reports that Mr Rochester (Greg Dulcie) is 'a giant bear of a man', at least a foot and a half taller than Jane. From the program I see that he indeed has played Goliath in a play King David. His credits also include: "costarred with a streaking sheep in the number one ranked Super Bowl commercial for Budweiser." Did he tackle it?

May 1, 2006

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Filed under: BBC,Jane Eyre (BBC 2006),Locations,Productions,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:12 am

New Locations for Jane Eyre 2006

Fast on the heels of our casting news, comes new faces for familiar places. We already know that Haddon Hall is the location for Thornfield Hall. Belton House is the new location for Gateshead Hall, home of the Reeds. Learn more about Belton House here. Among other things, it should look familiar… it appeared as a location in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice.

Several other properties owned by the National Trust will be used as locations in the production:

Dovedale is one of the most famous areas of the Peak District, and has already, like Haddon Hall, played a part in the 1996 film of Jane Eyre. Ilam is a village in the Peak District National Park (this place will likely be on the Jane Eyre touring trail eventually, what with all of its associations genial and pleasurable!). There is also a hall at Ilam, which one might imagine to be Ferndean.

And lastly, we have further confirmation that the production will air this autumn in the UK.

April 30, 2006

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Old Footage Comes to Light


In the history of a musical, one can never be sure what will come to the surface and when. Yesterday a 14 minute fragment of footage from the Gordon/Caird Jane Eyre: The Musical came to light, out of the depths of fandom where it had been cherished for several years. Only 14 minutes of the production at La Jolla. this production lies at the centre of the massive reconception of the work, when it transformed from 'musicalised BBC drama' to 'Cliff Notes Jane Eyre.' It is peculiar, and any new material is something special. I do have a full audio recording of the work, but it leaves me with more questions than answers.

This clip includes the Gypsy scene and the proposal. The quality is rather poor but good enough to show some of the staging- the elusive chestnut tree for example. Unfortunately the clip cuts off abruptly before the moment the tree is struck- which is something of a mystery to me; how it was done. I asked the composer, Paul Gordon, about this once. He recalled that there were in fact two trees. That they were rapidly switched and that it was 'very noisey'. The tree was so noisey that it 'not infrequently set off the fire alarms' and the theatre would have to be evacuated! Somewhat too realistic, perhaps!

I think the technical demands of using this effect in turn had an effect on the music. There is a strange bit of music during the La Jolla proposal scene which fans of it have mockingly dubbed 'Rochester Triumphant.' Now, the recording is made from the sound board so the effects are always louder and more obnoxious than they would be in the theatre, but 'Rochester Triumphant' features trumpet fanfares and other effects culminating in a shout of exhaultation from Mr Rochester followed by bells and a choir. It is awful, doesn't appear before or after this stage in the show's development. And I think it is all to cover up the noise of the tree.

For those who are curious, the cry goes something like this:

Let fire burn wild and deep,
Raging skies bleed bitter rain
but there is peace, I have my Jane!

This last image is from the gypsy scene and apparently shows Mr Rochester doing his impression of a matador (just to show off his acting ability, of course! His hair is also notorious in this production. It is quite a hideous Zamorna wig) and there's Jane encouraging this sort of behaviour.

April 29, 2006

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Filed under: Films,Interviews,Jane Eyre (1997),Media,Productions,Reviews,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 9:39 pm

Ciaran Hinds on playing Mr Rochester

This is a supplement to a very old post on Ciaran's take on the role of Mr Rochester in the 1997 film Jane Eyre opposite Samantha Morton. As part of a series of posts called 'Actors on Playing Mr Rochester' I had posted some of his rather off-base conceptions of Edward Rochester. Now, it gets so much worse, but we know now why he has such delusions… the poor, poor man:

Firstly, Mr Rochester's mysterious moustache is revealled to be the result of lazy facial hair adaptation from his stint as Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert: "At least half the facial make-up was there. They just chopped bits off the beard willy-nilly."

Hmnnn… *taps foot*

He was chosen for Rochester after the director, Robert Young, heard him play the part on radio. "He told me there was passion in my voice. I couldn't evaluate whether I was right or wrong. I haven't seen any film versions, or read the book. I don't want to because I'd worry about the impossibility of translating it to the screen. I'd wonder why particular scenes are left out, and that would cause frustration as well as getting in the way of the screen writer, who has worked very hard for a long time and knows more about it than me. Sam (his co-star Samantha Morton) has read the book several times, so I developed the character through her. She's only 19 and has an amazing talent. She treated me like her grandfather," he jokes. "The danger is that Rochester has been played so many times I risk being shot down by the critics. But a good story is a good story, whatever, and this is still about two hearts. I hope I can communicate real emotions. I hope against hope sometimes, but there's an extraordinary feeling when you get it right."

Hnnn!!!!! *taps foot faster*

Rochester is, he believes, selfish, arrogant, chauvinistic, bullying, sexist. "You could say he's a man of his time, a rich landowner, with power which he abuses. I wouldn't fancy him, and I wonder why women find him attractive. It's the power, I think. My job is to try and make viewers have sympathy. I hope we show how his heart was hit badly by his first wife. She'd been a bit of a sex siren when younger. How was he to know she was barking mad? Jane is employed as a governess and responds to him like a genuine person. It's not 'Yes, sir, no, sir.' She looks him in the eye and speaks her mind, which is a new experience for him. He finds her fascinating. In the end he says 'We are one soul,' but he can't trust himself to open up completely and admit, 'I love you'. He is callous, too, in the way he flirts with Blanche in order to make Jane jealous".

…*twitch* Perhaps if he had read the book he might have half a clue why women find him attractive? And that Mr Rochester is decidedly …none of those things listed? …*deep clensing breath*

Then he muses on life and love: "Monogamy is a bizarre concept, don't you think?"

…uuuuuurgh! Read it, if you must but… ugh! But… thank you, siansaksa for this. Really. *twitch* I really should talk to Mags at Austenblog about where she got her 'Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness.'

ETA: …one more remark just in case anyone still had any suspicions that this actor had the least sympathy with his character:

His first professional job was as the back end of the horse in Cinderella. "From the back end of a horse to Mr Rochester. You could say there's not much difference. The horse was probably a lot more interesting."

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Filed under: Bronteana,Technology,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 10:35 am

Heathcliff Unplugged

I came across this interesting thought this morning:

I can’t wait for Claire’s next installment at the eatery. It’s none of my business, but I am going to try to find out a few things. When, if ever, did they take their iPods out of their ears? Who did it first? Did their eyes meet? Did they ever talk? Was it all they could handle to experience four out of five senses on the first date? Will they go iPod-less next time?

In the meantime I’m going to spend some time wondering about the iconic characters in Wuthering Heights. If iPods were part of their furtive meetings, would the world-famous passion of that story have been worth writing about?

I'm not sure about Heathcliff and Cathy with their ipods out on the moors. It would make things difficult for Jane to hear Mr Rochester, though- unless this explains for once and for all just what 'the voice' was!

And then, reader, I remembered that I had neglected to remove my ipod and this explained the mysterious voice in my head.

April 28, 2006

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Filed under: Books,Bronteana,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:43 am

Digest of Brontë News


The forcast for today is wierdness with 10% chance of irrelevancy.

The Guardian has a review of Shanghai Nights by Juan Marsé:

Susana is a capricious girl who spends her time painting her fingernails and indulging in wild cinematic fantasies in which Scheherazade and Quasimodo appear in Wuthering Heights.

Hmn.

Here's a book most of us should be able to sympathise with: A Dead Language by Peter Rushforth.

Its heroine, Alice Pinkerton, is the spinster daughter of wealthy suburban New Yorkers. She reads, as Dickens once said, for life; and her obsession with books (with the Brontës and Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe and Tennyson, and so on) comes across, publicly, as a kind of madness, for which her small-minded neighbours hold her up as a curious exhibit.

More news on Emily Brontë the race horse.

Retiring judge Terry Hallenbeck is working through his alphabetised reading list, but somehow missed A… for Anne Brontë.

Lastly, we are told to keep teens occupied this summer by getting them writing:

So, get creative and dream up different ways of engaging that bright spark-propose e-mail, pen-pals, composing a thoughtful letter to Aunt Dorothy for the gift of Jane Eyre last Christmas; maybe even a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about some burning issue dear to your teenager's heart, such as why teens should be allowed to return home at all hours of the night and early morning.

Oh, yes, this will work. M. Heger put Emily to the same task, and the result is not very stimulating (she had to write several fictional letters). I can't imagine she found it enjoyable either. Some of the other advice is sound, though!

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Jane Eyre's 'Southwest Premiere'


It has actually played Texas several times by now, however, people are determined that each show is a premiere nowadays! The Irving Lyric Stage, Irving Texas is presenting the Gordon/Caird musical starting today. Here is what the founding producer of the company has to say about his early impressions of the work:

The book of this musical was written by John Caird, co-director/adapter of the Broadway smash LES MISERABLES. Lyric Stage's Founding Producer Steven Jones first saw JANE EYRE during its Toronto run in 1996. “I loved it. I was in Toronto to see the pre-Broadway engagements of RAGTIME and JANE EYRE. I saw JANE EYRE the first night and RAGTIME the following afternoon. I was so moved by JANE EYRE that I returned to the Royal Alexandra Theatre to see it a second time.” After sold out runs in Toronto and at the La Jolla Playhouse, JANE EYRE opened at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre on December 10, 2000 and was nominated for 5 Tony Awards. Lyric Stage’s production will be only the third professional production since its Broadway engagement.

It is nice to know that others besides myself still admire that early version of the show!

Performances dates for JANE EYRE are April 28, 29, May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13 @ 8:00 PM and April 30, May 7 & 13 @ 2:30 PM. Tickets are $24-$30, with discounts available for students and groups, and are available by calling the box office at 972-252-2787 or CLICK HERE TO ORDER ONLINE. All performances are in the Irving Arts Center’s Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. Irving, Texas, 75062.

April 27, 2006

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Filed under: Books,Branwell Bronte,Paraliterature,Reviews — by bronteana @ 9:58 pm

Another Review of Branwell

We're heard from the publisher, professional critics, and myself. Now, here is a review from another blogger, and 'Jane Eyre girl.'

There are two types of girls in the Western world: Jane Eyre girls and Elizabeth Bennett girls. Although most love both of the 19th-century's most famous fictional heroines, the majority will confess, if pressed, that deep down their loyalties lie with either one or the other.Although I, too, fell in love with Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy and will accept no substitutes, when it comes right down to it, I'm a Jane Eyre girl all the way.

[…]

When I was given the opportunity to read Douglas A. Martin's Branwell, the fictionalized biography of Charlotte Brontë's underachieving brother, I tore into it, hoping desperately for glimpses of his genius older sister and revelling in each mention of her work on Jane Eyre.My tendency to crane my neck past Branwell in order to long after Charlotte was, according to the novel, exactly what was wrong with Branwell to begin with.

[…]

Those looking for the keen determination and righteous anger of Charlotte won't find it in Branwell. The bare bones of Branwell's life, gleaned from scraps of writing and newspaper articles aren't brought into focus. Instead, the entire novel adopts the regressive tone of Brontë himself, a man so personally regressive he painted himself out of the family portrait. The permeating voice is listless and dispassionate, as if Branwell himself is telling the story from the bottom of a fingerful of laudanaum. There is no dialogue between characters, and even the questions are all phrased as statements, as if the narrator did not care if he was heard or not.

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She's back.

Charlotte Brontë-saurus. First seen here*, but now we have another sighting of this elusive creature. Apparently she now lives in Minnesota and has children in South Dakota. This is clearly not the same Charlotte Brontë-saurus, but you never know. I mean, she's out there somewhere (unless she has been microwaved into action-figure oblivion). A Brontëana reader reports a cartoon dinosaur named Emily, but in our professional opinion we believe we can discount the report as not being a valid sighting of the even more elusive Emily Brontë-saurus, since she is not a cartoon as far as we know.

*Well, not 'seen' per se…

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