As the thundering Italian opera recedes into the background, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” opens with a conversation between a nun and an inquiring young man, both with thick Scottish accents.
From this opening confusion of cultures, the audience is immediately drawn into the curious nature of the play and on the edge of its seat.
The interview between the nun and the young man frames the main plot. The inquisitive nature of the opening scene encourages contemplation and curiosity in its viewers. The title character, Miss Jean Brodie, is an eclectic and un-orthodox teacher who at first glance appears to be a beloved favorite among her students. However, as the girls grow up, the deeper complexities of Brodie’s character is revealed.
“You come in expecting to love [Brodie] and all of her eccentricities,” Zoe Speas ’12, who plays the role of Brodie said. “But in reality she is a destructive character, whether she intends it or not.”
The play centers around Brodie’s wild love affairs, unconventional teaching methods and her obsession with her four favorite students — Sandy, Mary, Jenny and Monica. Brodie’s influence over her students begins while the nine-year-old girls are first enrolled in her class and continues long after they leave her colorful classroom. Sandy is most influenced by Brodie’s eccentric manner.
“It’s called ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,’ but it is really about one of her students, Sandy,” Speas said.
“[The play] is about Brodie pushing the status quo and her trying to save her students from society’s expectations.”
Auditions were held the first day back from summer vacation, and the first read-through was performed that Saturday. With a dedicated cast of 15 and a hard-working crew, the play has transformed into a captivating and riveting drama. In order to create an authentic atmosphere, each cast member went through extensive training in order to perfect a Scottish accent.
“One of our professors, Liz Wiely, does voice work and dialects,” Director Laurie Wolf said. “She came in on the first day of the read-through and started doing fundamentals with the cast. Everyone set up times with her and worked on it individually as well.”
All of the training allowed for a truly realistic performance. In the two-and-a-half hour drama, the audience will feel transported back to 1930’s Scotland. Bringing the production together in a little under a month required a huge time commitment from both cast and crew.
“It sort of occupied my being since before we came back,” Wolf said. “I was having meetings with designers over the summer, I was reading and re-reading the script and novel by Muriel Spark as well.”
After a month of rehearsing and perfecting 15 Scottish accents, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” will not only provide an entertaining evening to many, it will allow audience members to take an introspective look at the people that influence their lives.
“It is not what it appears to be,” Speas said. “If people want to be surprised and want to think about the way they perceive others, the show definitely allows you to take another look at the people who come into your life.”