The Forest Grove High School theater department presents 'Pride & Prejudice' Friday.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - (Left to right) Aubry Crouch, Jordon DiNocenzo, Adrian Evans, Linnaea Rusaw and Katy Schlesser play Mr. Bennet and his daughters, gathering together to hear news of one of their sisters. An experienced young actress and a theater rookie will fill the leading roles in Forest Grove High School's winter production of "Pride & Prejudice."

Linnaea Rusaw and Gibson Landreville, both FGHS juniors, will play Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, respectively.

The play opens in Ellen Stevens Auditorium at the school, 1401 Nichols Lane, on Friday, Jan. 19.

The witty romance published in 1813 by Jane Austen features the strong-willed, independent Elizabeth, and the quiet, aloof and wealthy Darcy. Set in 19th-century Britain, the novel explores issues of marriage, family, love, wealth and class.

Because none of the five Bennet daughters can inherit the patriarch's property, the young women feel that at least one of them must marry a rich man in order to take care of the family when their father dies. The story follows Elizabeth and Darcy as they meet, spar and reluctantly fall in love.

"All these women are marrying rich men, but Elizabeth wants to do it differently," said production director John Anderberg, who appreciates the strong female lead of the work.

This is usually the time of year when the school's theater department puts on a Shakespeare production, but Anderberg decided to give Rusaw the chance to adapt the play for the FGHS stage before she transfers to Newberg High School at the end of the semester in January. NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Skylar Brainard and Linnaea Rusaw play Mr. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Bennet as they discuss the mysterious Mr. Darcy.

"They've invested so much faith in me," Rusaw said of Anderberg and other theater department staff. "It's been a real self-esteem-boosting experience."

A FGHS theater veteran, this is the role Rusaw has been dreaming of since she was 10 years old.

"I can relate to Elizabeth because she's not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and (she) stands up to the world," said Rusaw, who watched the 2005 movie version of the story on repeat as a child. "It's such a romantic novel. It's very adorable."

Rusaw started working on the adaptation a year ago and is excited to finally present it to the community.

"Seeing this all come together with all these different personalities for one big show is something really cool to share with the world," Rusaw said. "It's really been a big effort on a lot of peoples' part."NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Ruth Halley, Linnaea Rusaw, Katy Schlesser and Gibson Landreville, act out a scene that shows Caroline Bingley surprised to see Elizabeth Bennet with Mr. Darcy and his sister.

Rusaw and her costar share a favorite scene: Darcy's initial proposal to Elizabeth, which she angrily rejects after realizing Darcy interfered in a relationship between her sister and Darcy's friend.

"It's a fun back-and-forth," said Landreville, who was shocked to land a leading role after his first audition. "It's really fun to act out an argument."

Anderberg, too, enjoys the banter-heavy scenes between Elizabeth and Darcy.

Landreville was initially trying out for the role of Charles Bingley, Darcy's friend, but decided to try out for the lead at the encouragement of a friend.

"Now, I'm studying my lines like my life depends on it," said Landreville, who carries his script in his backpack at all times in case he has a free minute.

The whole cast and crew are busy preparing for opening night Friday, having recently finished painting an English countryside backdrop and participating in an English accents workshop led by Hillsboro-based Bag&Baggage Productions actress Cassie Greer.

The show runs through Jan. 26. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. in the Ellen Stevens Auditorium in Forest Grove High School, 1401 Nichols Lane. Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for students.

By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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