Meadville Community Theatre presents Austen’s classic story ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Keyera Zarembinski, playing Elizabeth Bennett in the show, poses for a photo prior to the start of the show’s run on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in the Meadvile Community Theatre.

The Meadville Community Theatre will be opening its production of “Pride & Prejudice” at 7:30 p.m. on  Friday, Feb 7 at 7:30p.m. at the MCT, located in Oddfellows at Allegheny College.

“Pride & Prejudice” is the third production in the MCT season. 

Mitchell King, president of the MCT board, is also the director of “Pride & Prejudice.”. He debuted as a director in 2018 with his rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which was also shown in the MCT. 

“My first head director job was ‘The Great Gatsby,’ so this is my second show where I am overseeing everything,” King said. “It is running a bit more smoothly this time around because I have a wonderful crew of people who have done everything you see on the stage, and it just has been an incredible experience, much less stressful.”

King grew up in Meadville, and attended college at Baldwin Wallace University. Since high school, he has always been involved with Allegheny.  

“I did the enrichment program Allegheny does here for high schoolers, and my mother works in the Alumni Office,” King said. “I have a lot of connections to Allegheny, so it is sort of a natural fit to be on campus directing this show.”

King is a performer as well as a director — in fact, most of his theatre experience is as a performer. 

“There is just something different about directing, where you sort of get to shape everything,” King said. “You get to make sure everyone is reaching their full potential and really putting their best performance forward that I as a director know they are capable of.” 

One of King’s performers is Dan Winston, ’10, who plays Charles Bingley in the show. 

Born in Pennsylvania, Winston moved to the suburbs of Pittsburgh during his elementary school years, and eventually moved to the Meadville area for high school. w 

After graduating from school, Winston helped to create, and now currently works, at an independent elementary school in the area that teaches Kindergarten through eighth grade.

Winston heard about the production of “Pride & Prejudice” by seeing it advertised in the program at another MCT show. 

“I try to see every play here because everything they do here is great, and I saw in the program for one of the previous shows that they were doing “Pride & Prejudice,” and that it was directed by (King), who has been a friend of mine for 15 years, so as soon as I heard that, I got excited,” Winston said.

When asked about his time working on Pride & Prejudice, Winston praised his castmates. 

“This sounds like a cliche but I promise you it is not — the cast is really, really wonderful,” Winston said. “Everybody in the show is a wonderful person both on and off the stage. Very generous actors, very thoughtful performers and just very cool people, and that is not always the case,” Winston said.

The script calls for actors of a wide range of ages, making the cast diverse. This also allows Winston to be in the production with a former student of his. 

“It has been really fun to work with all the (actors of) different ages,” Winston said.  “It comes down to the fact that we are very fortunate in that all the actors of different age levels are so talented and so invested in the show, because even though one person might be 14 and the other person might be 50, we are all working together toward the same goal and a lot of credit goes to the director, (King), for that.” 

Winston also said that the cast has formed a close bond and spends a great deal of time together outside of rehearsal. 

“When we go out to dinner or do anything, we always try to get everybody involved because it is a group effort, it is a family,” he said.

There are a number of elements that draw people to “Pride & Prejudice” — the characters are a crucial component to this production. 

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The cast of “Pride & Prejudice” gathers for a cast photo in advance of the show beginning its run on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in the Meadville Community Theatre.

Winston said that he enjoys Pride & Prejudice because each character is dynamic and “has a very distinct personality.” 

“It is fun when you get two of them, or three of them or eight of them onstage together and you get to see how they bounce off of eachother,” Winston said.

King agrees that characters are what initially drew him to “Pride & Prejudice.” 

“I thought this would be a perfect Valentine’s Day show,” King said. “I love character-driven pieces, and “Pride & Prejudice” is very much that. It was just a natural fit.”

Winston went on to say that the first scene of the show is his favorite. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Caroline Bingley, and Charles Bingley are all onstage for the first time. According to Winston, it is one of those scenes where the audience gets to see how three brand new personalities bounce off of eight other ones.

One of these additional personalities is Elizabeth Bennet, who is brought to life by Keyera Zarembinski. 

Zarembinski is a longtime “Pride & Prejudice” fan who picked up a theatre major in college. She attended Slippery Rock University and is currently enrolled in Youngstown State University. 

Auditions for “Pride & Prejudice” were open to anybody. Zarembinski heard about auditions from another MCT director and decided to try out for her dream role of Bennet.

“It was very nerve-wracking — I didn’t know anyone except my best friend, who I basically forced to come along with me so I didn’t have to do it alone,” Zarembinski said. “I was nervous out in the lobby, but as soon as I met (King) and (the assistant director), I was like, ‘wow they are really laid back and this is actually a lot of fun,’ so the fact that they were so approachable right from the start helped me a lot with my social anxiety. I was able to break out of my shell a lot more.” 

King said his favorite part of the show is the collaboration with the many people who helped pull it off. 

“That’s not just the actors, that’s my set designer, who had the frame of the set up before I was even done with auditions, my assistant director… who provided the majority of the props, and my (costume designers), who literally handmade every costume,” King said. “

King said the show is funny, sweet, sentimental — it’s a classic story that highlights societal norms and familial dynamics of the time. 

“I mean, (the author is) Jane Austen — and she was telling stories for women at a time when stories weren’t necessarily geared towards women,” King said. “It’s just a great show. It really puts the focus of the show on family bonds, bonds between sisters, bonds between parents and children, bonds between husbands and wives, and it is nice to see that. I mean, it is heartwarming, it is funny, it is sweet, it is sentimental, it is all of those things. It is a classic.”

It’s a piece of classic literature, a story that everyone has heard of, according to Winston.

“I think that it is just that everybody has heard of ‘Pride & Prejudice,’ it is part of our culture, it is part of the English language, but many of us, myself included, have never read the book or seen a stage adaptation,” Winston said. “But I think that you’re never going to get another adaptation like ours because you’ll never get these people, at these points in their lives, being directed by this person, ever again. So if you have never read it or seen it, then this is a great way to dip your toe into it and see what all the fuss is about. And if you are a lifelong fan of it, and you’ve read it and seen it 100 times, this will just be a unique take on it. Either way I think there is a lot of value in it.”

Zarembinski said “Pride & Prejudice” centers on a love story, and that it’s a great show to see around Valentine’s Day. The show will run from Friday, Feb. 7, until Sunday, Feb. 16,. Friday and Saturday’s showings will be at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday’s is at 2 p.m.