Scripted: J. Eyre by Paige Scott
Written by Elise Lockwood
I am incredibly excited to announce that for our first-ever Scripted, which will take place on Sunday, November 13th, we will be performing J. Eyre by Paige Scott.
As you might be able to guess, J. Eyre is an adaptation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. But this isn’t just any straight-up, no surprises adaptation. This is a musical. And it’s got attitude.
Paige, being the powerhouse creative genius she is, wrote both the book and the music for J. Eyre. This November, we’ll hear Act One. Paige is an incredible performer, playwright, and composer. As a composer, she has written for a variety of different musical projects: Bomb on a Bus (a musical based on the Keanu Reeves movie ‘Speed’), Lobby Channel (a serio-comedy based on a ‘This American Life’ segment), IndyFringe hits Holy Ficus and Great Bike Race (in collaboration with Zack Neiditch and Zach Rosing). J. Eyre will be her 6th musical. We’ll have an amazing cast reading the text, but Paige herself is going to bring her keyboard and sing. This is an opportunity to be part of the first group of people to hear this work.
J. Eyre is going to be produced by EclecticPond Theatre Company in July 2017. You might know ETC for their gorgeous reimaginings of Shakespeare and other classic works. J. Eyre fits very neatly into ETC’s mission to retell classical works through unique adaptations as well as support local playwrights.
When Paige sent me the script for J. Eyre, I immediately fell in love. Not with Mr. Rochester, but with this work. If you are someone, like me, who has had a negative experience with Jane, maybe in a literature class or as forced summer reading, throw out all your preconceived notions of what Jane Eyre is. Paige’s reimagining of this story is passionate, emotional, and acidly funny. It is a show both for those who love the original text and for those who know nothing about it.
J. Eyre keeps the story in the original timeframe, but passes it through a contemporary lens. At our reading, the entire cast will be played by women, except for Mr. Rochester. That alone comments on the original text in an interesting way – why is Mr. Rochester the only man that Jane ever views as a viable romantic interest? And Jane herself is struggling to overcome circumstances that many of us can relate to. How do you get through a horrible situation where you cannot possibly win? How do you find a place that makes you feel worthwhile and like you belong?
This is not the classic love story version of Jane Eyre. Paige takes a critical, and much needed, look at Jane and Rochester’s relationship. Drawing faithfully from the original book, Paige uses her sharp, even caustic lyrics, and quick wit to draw our attention to aspects of Rochester that are not as desirable. Even his first entrance perfectly encapsulates the character: “Two miles away, speeding on horse. Edward Rochester had a need for speed that no stallion could fulfill. To escape the annoyances of everyday life he would often take nightly rides.” Is Rochester actually a character that should be the subject of our affections? Maybe not. Does that matter? Maybe not.
However, Paige also maintains an incredible empathy for Jane. As an audience, we understand why she might put her trust and love in this man, why she might interpret her life as she does, and why she has to keep striving for something better. Paige’s Jane is a character I love and I am incredibly excited to see shared with the rest of the world. She’s ready to come off the page.
I’ll see you in a few weeks.
And remember: if you are an Indiana-based playwright interested in having your work read at Scripted, you can submit now! I’m currently looking for submissions for our December reading, which will take place on Sunday, December 11th.