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Brontë: Literary legends come alive on stage

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Caitlin Claypool

Hunter Hnat and Dawn McMillan run through a dress rehearsal for “Brontë” on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre in Tucson. Hnat plays the role of Branwell Brontë and McMillan plays the role of Charlotte Brontë.

From Feb. 25 through March 11, the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre presents the Arizona premiere of Polly Teale’s “Brontë,” which tells the story of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, three sisters who lived brief, impoverished lives on the moors of England, all dying before they reached the age of 40. Yet in that time, each one of the sisters managed to pen narrative masterpieces such as “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” which would shape the future of literature. 

“In ‘Brontë’, we are telling the story of […] these three phenomenal women who lived in remote England and yet were able to craft some of the most passionate and enduring stories of the 19th century,” Bryan Rafael Falcón, the artistic and managing director of the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre, said. “The play moves the audience backwards and forwards in place and time … into the lives not only of the three sisters but also into the characters that they created […] you get to see the […] events in the sisters’ lives that then impacted the stories that they wrote.”

The play is incredibly ambitious in its scope, following the sisters and their brother Branwell through each defining moment of their lives from their childhood to their deathbeds. All the while, characters from each of the sisters’ novels come out of the woodwork and provide insight into the minds and hearts of the Brontës. Consequently, the play’s unconventional style and non-linear format make it a technical and directorial challenge to perform.

“There are stories in stories, and the narrative moves back and forth in time and space,” Falcón said. “So, part of the challenge for us is [bringing] the audience along for the ride as we jump a decade in a breath or jump a continent in a heartbeat … We’re doing that through costuming, gesture, lights, sets and sounds. It all makes for a really remarkable and rich tapestry that we’re playing against.”

With a cast of only six actors, a play with the technical demands of “Brontë” is a tall order, but Falcón expressed his pride over the performances of the cast.

“I’m just so proud [of] how [the cast] are able to bring these personalities from long ago and make them truly live […] as people who have understandable, believable desires that bring about both joy and tragedy to their lives,” Falcón said. 

Although “Brontë” may have an engaging and uniquely told plot, the heart of the play is centered around fundamental questions about human nature and its need to create art.

“I think anybody who creates […] sometimes asks themselves the question ‘why do we do it?’” Falcón said. “What drives us to be willing to make choices in life that cause challenges and pain? There [are] always consequences to the artistic path, whether you are taking a job that pays a lot less than medicine or science […] or just [dealing with] the demands of being an artist on relationships. This play really delves into that. It asks the question of these three sisters: Why did they write? Why did they do what they did? In a similar way, it raises the question for the audience […] What drives us? What makes us strive to create?”

There is still time to experience “Brontë” for yourself! General admission is $30 and there are still showings on March 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre located in The Historic Y at 738 N. Fifth Avenue #131.  


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