Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Feature: Burt and Werneburg on Elizabeth - Darcy

(photo by Steven Burley)
Helpful Tips for Adapting a Classic Novel into a Play
by Two Crazy Bats  Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg

Burt and Werneburg are Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg. Their inaugural collaboration is Elizabeth - Darcy, first presented at the Toronto Fringe and returning to Campbell House December 14-29, 2013. Hallie and Kate are Toronto-based theatre practitioners. They met on a bus on the way to the Shaw Festival in 2004, and have been good friends ever since. Their work includes acting, writing, teaching and now, adapting! They love yoga and leftover cake. Check them out at or 
They tweet @HallieBurty and @KateWburg
  • Secure yourself a buddy. Someone who answers texts in questionable English at 2 a.m., someone with whom you would crawl through a gymnasium of children the day after Halloween, someone you would trust to delicately cradle your last uncooked egg on multiple rides at the fair. Preferably someone with aptitude in theatrical performance and or creation, someone hardworking, kind, and responsible. Someone who can take over when you need to leave the country, attend a birthday party for your neighbour's dog, or relax in the bath for a few hours while you prepare for your hemorrhoid cream commercial audition.
  • Find source material that triggers your giddy bone. Something you want to read over and over and over until your book falls to pieces and your eyeballs hang out of your head by the optic nerve. Something with depth. Something deeper than the laundry that accumulates while you're writing the  piece. Something that keeps bringing you back for more, something even more powerful than your Facebook feed. Preferably something with lots of good dialogue. Something  with heart and soul; something in the public domain!
  • Get ready to eat, sleep and dream your piece. Wake up to the sound of an e-mail from your buddy regarding the lover's true intentions. Go to sleep to the sound of a text about the hero's favourite childhood book. Spend all of your free time taking notes, drawing charts, making lists, and researching details to do with the source material. Sometimes running around your kitchen island while chanting lines or devising scenes is helpful. Be sure to run in both directions. Bang out a full draft and forget to include the villain. Wonder where the conflict went… remember to include the villain. To get you started we have included the handy diagram and this legend. (This diagram depicting the socio-economic realities inherent in Austen's masterpiece Pride and Prejudice was completed at approximately 7:47 a.m. on February 12, 2013. The artists had just completed their practice of daily morning yoga to clear their heads and inspire their creative juices).

We seriously started adapting Pride and Prejudice on Michaelmas, 2012, (September 29) which is bizarrely also when Austen's iconic novel opens. When we embarked on this process, we didn't know what we would have at the end. We launched in with plenty of enthusiasm., a love of the story, and a long term goal of creating a play that would delight us and the audience. In lots ofways we felt that our backgrounds had prepared us well for this adventure. We had trained at theatre school, studied other artists crating new work, and make new work ourselves. But we were full of doubts, too. Would we honour Austen's beautiful novel, or butcher her words and shame her memory? How would the show be received? But we never doubted that we wanted to try; to give it our very best shot.

"The Process"
Another Michaelmas has gone by, and we're taking a moment to reflect on our artistic journey so far. Of all the projects in our professional lives, we have never been more personally invested in a creation. That personal investment, shared between trusting collaborators, has brought us to this place: the launch of the show's first professional production. It has allowed us to take risks. It seems so obvious now. Creation is always a risk! We are still on a journey of risk-taking but we can look back and be happy with all of the risks we have taken because we took them wholeheartedly.

We hope that our reflections may inspire some of you to begin your own creative journeys with someone you trust… without thinking too hard or waiting for the 'right' moment.

Elizabeth - Darcy runs from December 14-29

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth & Darcy is a tour de force! It was a sellout at the Fringe last summer. Take advantage of the opportunity to see it again. Jane would be proud!


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