Innocent Diversions, A Christmas Entertainment with Jane Austen & Friends

 
Karen Eterovich as Jane Austen in Innocent Diversions, A Christmas Entertainment with Jane Austen & Friends

Karen Eterovich as Jane Austen in Innocent Diversions, A Christmas Entertainment with Jane Austen & Friends at Theater Ten Ten.

Premise of the play:

December 1803, Miss Jane Austen, her family & friends have arrived at Manydown Park, the Hampshire estate of the Bigg-Wither family for a Christmas celebration. At the persistent urging of her hosts, Jane has consented to be Mistress of Ceremonies and preside over their Holiday theatricals, which are to highlight her own outrageously funny early writings. Jane leads her friends and loved ones through comedic interpretations of various fictional characters, novels, short stories, plays and poetry. Friendship and family ties are put to the test when romance “erupts” within the ranks of the players and it is up to Jane to dry the tears, mend the broken hearts and save their Christmas performance from disaster. (The play runs 90 minutes with no intermission)

Background:

The Austen family had a tradition of presenting plays at the holidays in which, family and friends joined in the fun. Jane, in her younger years, was highly influenced by her mother who often communicated by means of little comic rhymes as well as her elder brothers James and Henry who were at Oxford and wrote prologues and epilogues for their family plays, in addition to essays and other writings which they published in a magazine. Jane as a young teenager wanted to join in the fun and began writing comic burlesques and parodies, which were intended to be read aloud to family and friends.

The play is set in 1803 a year after Harris Bigg-Wither’s marriage proposal to Jane. Harris was heir to the Manydown estate and several years younger than Jane. She initially accepted his offer of marriage but the following morning she changed her mind and she and Cassandra left Manydown to return again to Bath. Jane and Cassandra remained close with Harris’s sisters Elizabeth, Catherine and Alethea all of their lives so it is easy to believe they carried no resentment that Jane did not choose to wed their younger brother.

A sampling of press quotes: Theater 1010 Production *

Holiday Spirit Descends on Austenland – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

There’s so much that’s wonderful about this imaginative show. Set in December 1803, a wildly excited Jane Austen presides over holiday theatricals at a celebration for family and friends at a Hampshire country estate. – Nancy Ellen Shore, Back Stage

Innocent Diversions, the Jane Austen-style holiday fare from Theater Ten Ten, written, adapted, and directed by Lynn Marie Macy, is an absolute delight. The writing her displays a true appreciation and dedication to Austen’s wit and social satire. – Lisa Ferber, nytheatre.com

Now for something completely different: How would you like to be a guest at the country house of the Bigg- Wither family, neighbors of Jane Austen and her family, and join in the Christmas after-dinner entertainment?” – stagestrucknyc.com

This Jane, as played by Karen Eterovich, is anything but demure. She’s fun, with a wicked sense of humor, a kick in her step, and a twinkle in her eye. This is especially endearing at those moments when Jane acknowledges that some of the works being performed are not very good. Like the writing of any teenager, Ms. Austen’s Juvenilia is at times something only a beaming father could be proud of. Fortunately, there are also a number of pieces that hint at the writer to come. It is for these moments that one should attend this performance.” – Bryne Harrison, Off Off Broadway Review

Jane Austen fans and scholars need not read any further; they are more or less required to attend Innocent Diversions: A Christmas Entertainment With Jane Austen and Friends, … if it’s Austen, attention must be paid. – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

The novelist, interpreted as brilliant, vivacious, and fun-loving by charismatic Karen Eterovich, leads friends and family through songs and comedic renderings of letters, novels, stories, plays and poetry, all re-created with vigilant attention to historical detail by playwright-director Lynn Marie Macy from Austen’s early writings. – Nancy Ellen Shore, Back Stage

Lynn Marie Macy’s Innocent Diversions is just that – a pleasant way to while away 90 minutes. Those who are Austen fans will enjoy a chance to see some of her lesser-known work. Those who aren’t will still be able to enjoy the performances. – Byrne Harrison, Off Off Broadway Review

Lynn Marie Macy, who wrote, adapted and directed the show, has taken some of Austen earliest writings – juvenilia, basically – and fashioned them into a fictional Christmas show staged in 1803 by Austen, family members and friends. Correspondence is read aloud (Letter From a Worldly Woman To the Daughter of Her Friend), poems are recited, stories are enacted, a few songs are sung, a recurrent theme is – surprise – marriage prospects from the female perspective. – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

Overall, this is an absolute charmer. It is in fact exactly what it sets out to be: an innocent diversion. – Lisa Ferber, nytheatre.com

Distilled Spirits Theatre Production *

The tiny trilogy theater is serving up a much more authentic brew with Innocent Diversions: A Christmas Entertainment With Jane Austen & Friends from the aptly named Distilled Spirits company comes this small but charmingly inventive piece. – Karl Levett, Back Stage

Adapter-director Lynn Marie Macy has done a magnificent job stitching Innocent Diversions together from Jane Austen’s writings, creating an evening that very well may have actually happened back in 1803. – Martin Denton, nytheatre.com

Lynn Marie Macy is a triple threat, having written, directed and adapted here, basing the show principally on Jane Austen’s juvenile works. – Karl Levett, Back Stage

No Christmas party you’re likely to attend this year will match the one thrown by the Bigg Sisters. Innocent Diversions hearkens back to an era when we had just our wits and our wiles to amuse one another: how sweetly and charmingly these witty, wily folk are able to amuse us. It’s perfectly appropriate for the entire family. – Martin Denton, nytheatre.com

…A Christmas pudding of a show – Karl Levett – Back Stage …A captivating recreation of Christmases past. – Martin Denton – nytheatre.com

Theater Ten Ten production info.

Theater Ten Ten production info.

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