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MEET MR. DARCY

by Lenise Willis

Photo by Danny Alvarez

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll spend the holiday, whether with your sweetie or a group of friends. And what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day “” speaking the language of love “” than a play adapted from one of history’s most romantic pieces of literature, Jane Austen’s Lenise Willis Pride and Prejudice?

“What I love most about Pride and Prejudice is the many ways it lets us look at love,” Contributing said Sharon Andrews, director of Twin City columnist Stage’s upcoming production. “And then, of course, there’s Elizabeth and Darcy. It may very well be one of the most satisfying unions in literature.

“Their marriage was hard won, but because it was hard won, we absolutely believe in our hearts that these two intellectuallygifted, handsome, high-spirited and kind human beings will enjoy a wonderful and long-lasting love. And that is a pretty wonderful Valentine’s Day belief.”

So who exactly will you be swooning over when Mr. Darcy strides onstage? That would be actor Patrick Meehan performing as the proud, privileged and heart-stealing socialite.

Y!W: How would you describe yourself? Are you at all like Mr. Darcy?

Patrick Meehan: Like Mr. Darcy, I have a reserved personality, so I have a lot of empathy for him. I also tend to operate from an intellectual place, which I think is very similar to how Darcy approaches the world.

How did you prepare yourself for this character; how do you get into character?

PM: Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite novels, and I have read it many times. Mr. Darcy is a “bucket list” role for me “¦ A friend lent me a copy of The Annotated Pride & Prejudice, which is roughly 700 pages and has each page of the novel opposite a full page of annotations and notes. So I read that cover-to-cover and found it really invaluable for putting the play and my character in context.

Are you married or dating in real life? What was the reaction from your wife and friends that you’re playing as Mr. Darcy?

PM: I am married to my own beautiful, witty and accomplished “Elizabeth Bennet.” I feel like I understand quite a bit about Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship because my relationship to my wife is similar in many ways. She brings that kind of “spark” and joy to my life and I feel lucky every day to have somehow convinced her to marry me.

When the show was announced last year, I knew I wanted to audition for Mr. Darcy. My wife and female friends have been very supportive, with of course a little good-natured ribbing about the kissing scenes.

Have you learned anything about “the game” from your role as Mr. Darcy?

PM: I wouldn’t say it’s new information, but it has been interesting to play out the process of how we present ourselves to others and inadvertently create misunderstandings and make misjudgments out of our own pride or sense of who we are.

What do you think about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s connection?

PM: The connection starts from raw chemistry and attraction.

This is particularly interesting to play out in the context of a culture where men and women almost never touch in public except when dancing.

By the end, they have become the most complete people in the story because they have been willing to honestly and even harshly observe in themselves traits that needed correction, and do the hard and humiliating work needed to correct those failings. It’s that mutual sense of willingness to address and readiness to forgive that finally connects them to each other and creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

What’s the most romantic thing you’ve done for someone?

PM: My wife and I took a trip to Paris a few years back, which was a wonderful experience for us and for our relationship. What makes a trip like that so romantic isn’t just that it is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but that it is made more beautiful by sharing appreciation for the same things. !

WANNA go?

Twin City Stage’s Pride and Prejudice runs Friday through Sunday and Feb. 12-15 at Winston-Salem’s Arts Council Theater, 610 Coliseum Drive. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information visit twincitystage.org or call 748-0857. Opening Night with a celebratory reception is Friday. On Valentine’s Day, the audience is invited to a pre-show champagne and chocolates reception.

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