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JANE EYRE and “Poor Orphan Child”

Jane Eyre graphic for FBWhen the playwright is also a musician and sometime composer of incidental music, it should surprise no one that she has strong ideas about the music for her own play.

One thing that struck me when I re-read Jane Eyre just before beginning to write the play, was a ballad that Bessie–a servant of Aunt Reed, and Jane’s nurse of sorts–sang to the young girl at a time when Jane had been especially mistreated.  Oddly enough, though I had read the book a score of times before, I had no recollection of reading the lyrics to that song previously!  I find it true in all my reading, that different aspects and scenes of a book will speak to us at different times in our lives. This is one

my first JE book cover

The cover of my first (paperback) copy of “Jane Eyre”–read until it fell apart.

reason I relish the chance to revisit a favorite book after a few years.

I hunted online to see whether “The Poor Orphan Child” was an actual ballad of the time (popular folk ballads were printed as cheap sheet music and sold on street corners or shops).

All evidence points to Charlotte Bronte herself as the author of the lyrics. Whether she had a melody in mind when she wrote them is anybody’s guess, as no tune is listed. But the words were quite evocative to me, and I found myself compelled to write a melody for them. The result will be heard in the opening moments of the play. Although the song’s origin (and singer) are not explained in the context of the play, they have a mournful quality which is appropriate to Jane’s orphan state. Indeed, orphans are a recurring theme, since not only Jane but Adele is (possibly) parentless; the school where Jane teaches later in the story also includes orphans (notably little Alice, Jane’s attendant).  Not only children but adults are without parents:  Rochester’s father died when he was a young man (no mention is made of his mother); the Rivers siblings have lost their parents. 

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JANE EYRE and the playwright

Jane Eyre graphic for FBThis blog post is a perspective on the adaptation of Jane Eyre being used by all for One. It has been common knowledge since our season was announced that I (artistic director Lauren Nichols) wrote it. But I haven’t published any explanation here of why I felt compelled to create my own version, since so many others exist.

Adapting Jane Eyre began as a bit of whimsy, nine years ago. I had been experimenting with non-linear storytelling in another play I was writing at the time, and I was appreciating its many benefits, especially in telling a familiar (perhaps too familiar) tale.  It occurred to me that my favorite novel of all time would work well being told in this way, and I sketched an outline which pleased me.  I promptly filed it away and half-forgot about it.

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JANE EYRE and adaptations

Jane Eyre graphic for FB

This post, on the many and various forms taken by works which have been inspired by Jane Eyre, was contributed by Brittany King, a young actress making her afO debut. Brittany plays the interesting and challenging dual roles of Mrs. Fairfax and Rosamond Oliver.

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Most classic works of literature have inspired countless other tales, spin-offs, revamps, adaptations and themes in storytelling, and Jane Eyre is no exception. Since its publication in 1847, there has been plenty of time for the novel to be dissected and resurrected in fresh, new ways, as well as to be  adapted into multiple feature length films and television series, and of course, great theater adaptations.

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