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Dead Writers Collective bring Jane Austen to life

Lorelei Sturm, Heather Chrisler (Emma) and Brandon Johnson
Lorelei Sturm, Heather Chrisler (Emma) and Brandon Johnson
Photos by Michael Brosilow Photography

Dead Writers Theatre Collective is committed to bringing a historically informed "masterpiece theatre" aesthetic back to the classics through fully staged, period accurate and highly detailed productions. They certainly bring that promise to life in their production of Jane Austen’s Emma running at Stage 773 through May 25th.

You may recall the 1996 film, Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse, the smart, confident, yet naïve young woman who fancies herself a gifted matchmaker. In this production the role of Emma is played wonderfully by, Heather Chrisler, and she is surrounded by a stellar cast whose talents range from dance to piano to singing (all a part of the play). This adaptation by Michael Bloom debuted in 2010 to rave reviews at Cleveland Play House. Now in Chicago the play is directed by Jim Schneider also the Artistic Director of Dead Writers Theatre Collective with a sumptuous set by Moon Jung Kim and Masterpiece Theater worthy costumes by Patti Roeder.

Emma is the main stage production for the Dead Writers who say that with the trend for reduction and "re-imagining" in the arts they aim to provide a reference point for the viewer as to how the works of dead writers would have originally been staged. They practice the mantra that the writer is the primary artist from which all other radiate – classic theatre resurrected.

When you experience a Dead Writers’ production the company transports the audience into the world of the play through extensively studied period appropriate settings, props and costumes. A strict attention to detail is a hallmark of the Dead Writers Theatre Collective, which is why they enlisted the aid of dramaturg, Jeffrey A. Nigro, from The Jane Austen Society of North America who says, “the production team has put a great deal of thought and care into making these nuanced social distinctions visible on stage… Emma is a delightful comedy of manners.”

Aside from an annual main stage production the company offers up a Chamber Series consisting of plays by or about dead writers running in the late summer/fall. So if you love Jane Austen don’t miss this opulent production of Emma at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont, Chicago. The show runs Thursday through Sunday until May 25th. Performances 7:30 pm and 2:30pm for the Sunday matinee. Call for tickets - 773.327.5252 or go on line for reservations -