Oct 19, 2021 • 37M

The Podcast S2: Comedy, Romance, Pleasure, Pain - Adapting Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’

Playwright Sarah Rose Kearns on why Anne Elliot is her best imaginary friend

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We're talking about the stories of Jane Austen - how they connect to us today, and connect us to each other.
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Dear Jane friends,

It’s Tuesday, and not our usual Thursday, because we have something special for you: Today, we are kicking off a second season of the podcast! We have some amazing conversations lined up for you, dropping on Thursdays over the next few weeks - so make sure you are signed up for this newsletter, and each conversation will drop right into your inbox. You can listen right here (click Play!) or find the podcast on Spotify or Apple.

And today, we interrupt our October month of horrors for a romantic, soulful interlude … about Jane Austen’s most romantic, soulful story.

We’re talking with playwright Sarah Rose Kearns, an actor, Janeite, and playwright whose adaptation of Persuasion is showing in an Off-Broadway production through the end of the month.

Playwright Sarah Rose Kearns first read Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ as a teen, and says heroine Anne Elliot has been her imaginary friend ever since. Kearns’s adaptation of ‘Persuasion’ is playing Off-Broadway through October. | Photo: Ashley Garrett, Courtesy of Bedlam

We recently spoke with Kearns for this Christian Science Monitor piece, and when we caught up with her by Zoom on a recent Saturday night she told us she feels like Anne Elliot has been her imaginary friend for half her life.

Can we relate, friends?

It seems to me like many of us feel - like biographer Claire Tomalin told us she does - that Austen’s characters are indeed our intimate friends. And have been for a very long time, if we’re lucky.

As a writer, Sarah Rose Kearns has an answer to why this is: She attributes this intimacy partly to Austen’s literary technique known as “free indirect discourse,” which takes us right into the mind of the character. 

My very favorite part of this conversation might be the part about the music included in Kearns’s stage play - including the folk song “The Saucy Sailor,” featuring in this episode a version of the ditty by Canadian folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys

Kearns also talked about some of our favorite themes of Jane Austen that come out strong in Persuasion - such as the feeling not only of longing and loss, but also of displacement, abandonment, and what Kearns called “the quest for a stable home.” 

Enjoy this Austen Connection podcast episode with Sarah Rose Kearns on taking Jane Austen’s most heartbreaking, soulful, most painful and pining, and deeply romantic story - and putting all that on stage. 

And, friends, tell us:

What is your favorite theme in the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth? What is your favorite part of the novel - is it The Letter? Do you feel that Anne Elliot is the perfect imaginary friend? And what did you think of The Wailin Jennys’ version of “The Saucy Sailor” featured in this episode?

Leave a comment

Does anyone out there plan to be at the play, at Bedlam theater in NYC? The Austen Connection will be there on Friday, Oct. 22, for the TalkBack - come by and see us!

And, watch for brand new Season 2 podcast episodes, dropping on Thursdays! Coming up: author Vanessa Riley about her latest book Island Queen, author Uzma Jalaluddin on her Pride and Prejudice retelling Ayesha at Last, Damianne Scott on her own retelling of Persuasion and her popular Facebook page “Black Girl Loves Jane,” and next week a special Halloween edition that continues our October month of Horrors, with Professor Maria De Blassey, about ordinary gothic, everyday magic, romance, and what it all has to do with Jane Austen - that’s next Thursday!

Sign up for the newsletter, and all these conversations arrive right to your inbox.

And meanwhile, friends, stay healthy, warm, and happy, and stay in touch with us at the Austen Connection.

Yours truly,

Plain Jane 

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Cool Links:

  • The Persuasion play website: https://www.janeaustenspersuasion.com/

  • The current Bedlam production website: https://bedlam.org/persuasion/

  • Jocelyn Harris’s book A Revolution Almost Beyond Expression: Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’: https://www.jocelynharris.co.nz/work/revolution-almost-beyond-expression-jane-austens-persuasion/

  • Paula Byrne’s The Genius of Jane Austen, about Jane Austen and the theater: https://paulabyrne.com/books/

  • Here’s the Andrew Davies talk at Chapman University that is mentioned in this conversation: