Director Teresa Dayley Love shares her vision of Anne Shirley and why the story of the imaginative red-head still matters today
The novel "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery has captured readers'imaginations since it was published in 1908. Beginning June 1, the story will come to life and inspire imagination in a whole new way in a BYU production that promises to relate to audiences of today.
For director Teresa Dayley Love, the long-lasting appeal of Anne's adventures is Anne Shirley herself. Although the story takes place at the turn of the century, Love strongly believes young girls can still learn much from the heroine.
Esther Pielstick as Anne Shirley
Photo by Savanna Richardson/BYU
"Anne is a real girl," Love said. "Everything about her is still applicable to girls today. She is able to find beauty in everything and is excited about learning. Perhaps most important is her refusal to conform. She shows the importance of girls being themselves."
Casting the role was was a crucial decision for Love as the actress needs to be able to play the character as a 12 year old at the beginning of the play and an 18 year old by the end. A number of qualified actresses auditioned, including Esther Pielstick, who ended up being cast as the iconic heroine.
"Anne is such a loved character for a lot of people," Pielstick said, "and Teresa has done a wonderful job bringing this story to life. I think we've captured the youthful nature of the show while still keeping the heart and weight of Anne's world."
Love also commented on the high expectations audiences bring with them to dramatized versions of "Anne of Green Gables." However, this adaption by Peter DeLaurier stays true to the novel by portraying favorite scenes, such as a certain incident with raspberry cordial and Anne's near-drowning while re-enacting a romantic poem. The play's focus on Anne's relationships with her adopted parents, her best friend Dianna, and her eventual beau, Gilbert Blythe, ensure that every audience member will relate to the story.
"There is an age for young girls when Anne really speaks to you," Love said. "But when you read it again when you are older, you read it in a whole new way and may relate to Marilla more. It is a very full book and says a lot about how people look at things differently."
"The characters and situations all feel so real and relatable," said Derek Johnson, who portrays Gilbert. "The themes explored are so important for people of every age. Themes of forgiveness, love, family and friendship are conveyed so beautifully within the story of Anne's life. We get to see her explore these concepts as she learns and grows as every human does."
Mary Jane Wadley as Marilla
Photo by Savanna Richardson/BYU
The production will feature a set which Love described as "not fussy" in order to encourage the audience to fill in the blanks with their imagination, just as Anne uses hers. "The costume, set, lighting and sound designers have done such a wonderful job running with my central concept of highlighting the scope of the imagination in order to engage the audience," Love said.
"Right from the beginning," said Landon Alley, who has composed original music for the production, "Grant Porter, who is the sound designer for the show, and Teresa told me that their vision was for each of the five lead characters to be represented by their own instrument. Once those instruments were decided, I also chose to give each character their own motif — a melody that would appear throughout the play and demonstrate their development. Those foundational ideas made the composing process very simple and enjoyable.The music really became an extension of the characters'emotions and their interactions on stage."
"It is the perfect show for the beginning of summer," Love said. "It is full of youthful optimism and a great show for the whole family to enjoy together."
The production runs in the Pardoe from June 1-2, 7-9 and 13-15 at 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on June 2, 7, 9, 15 and 16.