The University of Memphis will present a fresh musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma written by Stephen Karam in the Studio Theatre on Thursday through Saturday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons November 14 through 17.
“I saw a production of Emma in 2011 in New York City, where I was living at the time,” said Angela Shultz, director of the UofM’s production of Emma and graduate student with the Department of Theatre & Dance. “I thought it was delightful and wondered at the time why no one else was doing it.”
Shultz proposed a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel for the 2019-2020 theatre season. In the play, the titular Emma is a graduate student at Highbury College in Connecticut. She sets out to set up her new friend Harry with a dashing a cappella star, but her plans go hilariously awry when her rival Eileen returns, and movie star Aaron arrives. Her trusted friends John Knight and Miss Bates try to steer her into less meddling waters, but Emma is determined she knows best – even if the a cappella group in her mind tells her differently.
“I thought it would be particularly good for our student population in the department since it isn’t often that they are asked to play characters their age,” Shultz said.
A funny and moving musical, Shultz said Emma amounts to equal parts Regency England and late ’90s sitcom. The story is so memorable, it was famously reinterpreted in 1995 as the coming-of-age romantic comedy Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone.
“Stephen Karam’s adaptation was very faithful to the original novel, but also very fresh and modern,” Shultz said. “It’s published, but very rarely done. In fact, we’re the first school not located on a coast to perform this musical.”
The UofM production of Emma will run Nov. 14 to 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 16 –17 at 2 p.m. Admission is $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and non-UofM students, $5 for high school students; U of M students receive a complimentary ticket. For more information on this event, visit memphis.edu/theatre or call (901) 678-2576.
Cast & Crew
Cast: Yasemin Aksel, Ashley Clinton, Ayla Davis, Daniel Farr, Jerquintez Gipson, Truman Jepson, Rebecca Koenig, Kate Kuszynski, Steven McCoy, Aly Milan, Trinity Miller and Deonta White
Directed by Angela Shultz
Musical Direction by Jacob Allen
Scenic Design by Brian Ruggaber
Lighting Design by Tao Wang
Costume Design by Aubrey Dearen
Sound Design by James Baker