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IEP Brings Reading to Life in "Pride and Prejudice"

The Intensive English Program (IEP) at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) performed a theatrical adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel "Pride and Prejudice" in April, 2015. The play was performed and organized entirely by the students as part of Professor Alison Koushki's "Bring Reading to Life" program, an initiative that, as the name suggests, promotes comprehensive reading of a given semester's main reading material, a classic novel, by allowing the IEP students to create a performance based upon it. This adds a new dimension to their learning experience. With the assistance of Drama Coach Lalin-Radhika Dissanayaka, the students drove the production by assuming the roles of actors, costume and set designers, advertisers, script-writers, and choreographers. The "Writing Corner" team selected and posted in the performance area the 10 best essays students wrote about the novel, giving the play a literary reflection for the audience to contemplate before and after the show.

"Pride and Prejudice" follows the drama of an English family in the early 19th century. The main character, Elizabeth Bennet, struggles with issues of class, morality and marriage as she navigates the social landscape of her rural town. The students in Professor Koushki's English classes began work on the performance in the beginning of the semester, in conjunction with their reading of the novel. Drama Coach Dissanayaka worked closely with the actors and dancers throughout rehearsals to perfect their diction, movement and timing. "The students were very dedicated to the production and were committed to memorizing all of their lines and dance moves," she said.

The play included a number of important scenes from the story of "Pride and Prejudice." Notable among them were two marriage proposals, one from the presumptuous Mr. Collins (acted by Mohammed Saab), and one from the arrogant Mr. Darcy (Aref Froutan). Elizabeth Bennet (Mona Singer) rejects them both and sends the two hopefuls packing. The performance also featured two British-style dance sequences and an unexpected dance number at the end of the show that was based on the Bollywood modern-day adaptation of the novel: "Bride and Prejudice." The student actors dressed in period costumes and scripted the dialogue with direct quotes from the novel.

In May, the production ran for a second time during the Intensive English Program Open Day. The students added a scene to the performance that was not included in the original production. The scene depicted an apology and a marriage proposal by Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth. The second performance provided the students with the opportunity to expand on their acting skills and include a few additions to the script. Actress Mona Singer "broke the fourth wall" between the stage and the audience when, as Elizabeth, she turned to them and asked "What should I do?" upon receiving Mr. Darcy’s apology and second marriage proposal. Audience interaction was lively and loud as they shouted their advice.

The "Pride and Prejudice" production was not the first time that Professor Koushki has integrated visual and dramatic arts into the reading curriculum. Last semester, her students kicked off Halloween celebrations on campus with their enactment of the novel "Frankenstein" complete with a flash dance to Michael Jackson's "Beat It," in full monster make-up and "Bring Reading to Life" t-shirts. In Spring 2014, IEP students produced performances of "The Godfather," based on the novel by American author Mario Puzo. These performances were also assisted by Ms. Dissanayaka.

Images from the play

Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 12th July 2015

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2015

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