Emma has a gift for getting people together — or so she thinks.
Pride and matchmaking gone awry are key to Jane Austen’s “Emma,” which will be brought to theatrical life this weekend by the Pioneer Drama Troupe.
The Pioneer group, made up of local home-schooled students, put on its first production in 2001. The group’s shows were staged at various churches, and then The Goshen Theater was Pioneer’s home venue. This time around, the production will take place at Grace Bible Baptist Church in New Paris.
Moving to a new performance space presented some challenges to the Pioneers.
“We had to build our own lights,” said Paige Kemper, who’s in her second year as director of the Pioneer group. Her son Tyler ordered and built the lights, and Alex Clark did most of the wiring.
Eleven Pioneer cast members and two backstage helpers, plus the director, make up this “Emma” production. The story itself is set in the 1800s and features 21-year-old Emma, who fancies herself a matchmaker in her English village of Highbury.
“Long story short, she’s really not very good at it,” Kemper said. “Her father wishes she wouldn’t do it.” The director said everything works out in the end.
Prior to a rehearsal earlier this week, some of the cast members talked about their “Emma” characters and experiences.
In addition to light construction duties, Tyler Kemper — in his fourth year with Pioneer Drama Troupe — has the role of Emma’s friend George Knightley. Kemper likes playing the part, one which is a bit different from his prior Pioneer portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. In contrast to the detective, Knightley is, in Kemper’s words, “a stiff.”
“You’re very calm, very proper. You don’t say much,” he said of playing Knightley. “There’s not really any hand movements.”