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Under the non-literary rallying cry “take it off!”, A Brontë Burlesque takes us into the buttoned-up world of the cloistered English family that gave the world Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Brontë), and in the case of their boozehound brother Branwell, a whole passel of poems and paintings. The troupe, and the script by Ellen Chorley, are all about “theatricalizing” burlesque, marrying its flamboyant performance style (and ’80s dance hits) to narrative impulses.Female First interviews romance writer Caitlin Ricci.
“Each burlesque number has its own little story,” says Samantha Duff, the willowy University of Alberta acting grad who makes her burlesque debut as Charlotte. “And that’s what burlesque is. As opposed to just stripping and dancing, there’s a mini-story; there’s motivation for taking off your clothes.” Shakespeare, indoors and out, both in Edmonton and her hometown of Calgary, has pride of place in the Duff resumé. A Brontë Burlesque is way outside the world of doublet-and-hose and iambic pentameter.
“This is me climbing Everest,” she grins. “Way out of my comfort box, and that was something I was looking for.” Having a character to play when you’re taking your clothes off is a great boost to the comfort level, Duff reports. [...]
So, why are the literary luminaries of the 19th-century English novel dancing in their knickers to Florence and the Machine and Radiohead? The context has something to do with peeling back the constraints of female ambition and respectability in the period. A certain detectable “feminist outlook” in Jane Eyre first twigged Chorley to the idea. “A woman’s place in society,” plus “a family life with a lot of secrets” — these are notions that lend themselves to peeling off layers.
All three sisters used male pseudonyms when they published, which explains why they wear ties in the show. Chorley explains that “when Anne starts to remove clothing, the scene is about the discovery of a secret notebook, and her finally revealing her work to us. It’s all about freeing yourself from baggage.”
Branwell, the only guy in the crowd, is “a bit of a sad-sack,” says Cook cheerfully of the underachiever sibling he plays. “He had a problem with booze, and with the success of his sisters, and over the course of the show that tears the family apart. “Al, our stage manager (Al Gadowsky) calls him ‘our gentleman’,” laughs Chorley. “We girls call him ‘our brute’.”
“I was interested in the combination of Brontës and burlesque as a really interesting way to experiment with intimacy,” says Chorley. Burlesque is a style element that gives the story “a heightened reality.” Cook knows a lot about the heightening and shrinking of reality in showbiz from his non-theatre job as host of a karaoke bar. “A lot of this show is memory, a fever dream. So burlesque works wonderfully.” (Liz Nicholls)
You are a voracious reader so who are your favourites? [...]This columnist from The Garden Island comments on so-called romantic novels:
Another well-loved book on my shelf is Jane Eyre. This was the first romance that I ever read and it spawned a love of classic romances. (Lucy Walton)
I’m not great on romantic novels — they’re a little too sweets for my taste — but tales of heroes and heroines and ‘extraordinary or mysterious’ events can be considered romantic, too. Remember Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights? Who in the world could ever forget Heathcliff? (Bettejo Dux)Salon discusses whether you can make kids love books based on cultural critic Natasha Vargas-Cooper's recent assertion 'that it was a bad idea to assign novels to high school students'.
But “Jane Eyre”! Vargas-Cooper describes Charlotte and Emily as “those damnable Brontë sisters” who “were shoved down my throat.” But “Jane Eyre” electrified me. I instantly recognized that Charlotte’s novel was not a romance, but the story of a young woman — powerless, friendless and despised — who nevertheless seizes her own destiny and happiness by sheer strength of character. It’s hard for me to imagine a teenager who wouldn’t respond to such a narrative, but it seems that “Jane Eyre” did not do the trick for Vargas-Cooper, while Joan Didion (whose cool, affectless prose would have annoyed my adolescent self) might have.The Warner Cable News features Everyman's Library.
Vargas-Cooper partly blames inadequate teachers at the “overcrowded, underfunded” schools of her youth for putting her off novels until her early 20s, and several readers who disagreed with her piece did, too. I’m not so sure. Yes, an inspired teacher can open up the treasure chest of a great book for her students, but that wasn’t how I came to love “Jane Eyre.” I have no memory at all of any classroom discussion or exercises pertaining to the book. I just read it, the way most people read novels, all by myself. I knew this was my book, that it was somehow about me and bigger than me at the same time. All the teacher had to do was put it in my hands and “Jane Eyre” did all the work. (Laura Miller)
Today, Alfred Knopf and Random House have acquired the rights to the brand and titles, and they've proven faithful stewards of this remarkable legacy. Thanks to Everyman's Library, any book lover can acquire, usually for around $20, the most beautiful, lovingly made editions of the works of the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, William Thackeray, Jane Austen, Stendhal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Mann, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Cormac McCarthy, Salman Rushdie and on and on and on. (Sohrab Ahmari)This columnist from Town Topics found also good editions of the novels even cheaper:at an even cheaper price:
Strindberg’s autobiographical novel, The Inferno, cost me the equivalent of 50 cents at the Wise Owl, which was located just around the corner from a 17th-century alms house. Although Bristol had a number of browsable secondhand stores in the 1970s — from the magnificent George’s at the top of the Park Street hill to the lowly George’s on the Christmas Steps — my favorite was the Wise Owl, a paradise of “quaint and curious volumes,” most of them reasonably priced. It was there that I found an illustrated set of the Brontës, a copy of the works of Milton the size of a package of cigarettes, and an equally charismatic volume from the same year (1837), Daniel Defoe’s History of the Devil. (Stuart Mitchner)The Belfast Telegraph looks at several courses to be given at Stranmillis University College.
For those enthralled with the children of the Vicar of Haworth, Dr Sophie Hillan offers a short course on the Brontë sisters. As Sophie observes: "We all know the Brontës. Or do we?"Business Day (South Africa) seems to have a theory concerning box office results. Speaking of the film Jack Ryan: Shadow Pursuit:
This course looks at their novels in the context of their lives at the lonely parsonage on the moors and considers the background influence of their Co Down-born father, Patrick. (Dr Eamon Phoenix)
Whether the lack of a preview was a ploy or was instructed by Hollywood, due care should be taken, given the history of movies bearing the main character’s name falling short of readers’ expectations, the most recent examples being Jack Reacher, John Carter, Julius Caesar and Jane Eyre. (Phillip Altbeker)For the Epoch Times, Emily Brontë seems to have been a confirmed 'asexual'. The Brontë Parsonage Facebook page has posts on Emily Brontë's short stay at Law Hill and the influence Lord Byron had on the Brontës. The Urban Romantic reviews Wuthering Heights. Tony's Reading List posts about Minae Mizumura's A Real Novel.