Philadelphia Artists’ Collective Presents World Premiere Adaptation of Jane Eyre

-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
photo by Ashley Smith

Philadelphia Artists’ Collective presents a World Premiere Adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece Jane Eyre, adapted by Jessica Bedford, Kathryn MacMillan, Charlotte Northeast and Meghan Winch, and directed by Kathryn MacMillan. The production runs through May 28, 2023, at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street, in Old City Philadelphia.

Brought to you by the team behind Tiny Dynamite’s acclaimed The Complete Works of Jane Austen, Abridged, this thrilling version of the beloved novel features a large ensemble and utilizes a chorus of “Janes” to theatricalize the heroine’s rich inner life. Jane Eyre runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes, and is recommended for ages 10 and up.  This production was made possible by a generous grant from The Roy Cockrum Foundation, with additional support from The Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Honorary Producers for Jane Eyre are Angela Muller and Lisa Yanak. Tickets are on sale now for $10 for students, $20 for subscribers, $25 for seniors and $30 general admission.  For show information and tickets, please visit

Jane Eyre is a sweeping, heart-rending story of romance, independence, and the conquering spirit of a brave young woman. For the World Premiere Adaptation, PAC looked to Jessica Bedford, Kathryn MacMillan, Charlotte Northeast and Meghan Winch – all who worked together on Tiny Dynamite’s acclaimed The Complete Works of Jane Austen, Abridged. It is a classic tale given a new modern sensibility and updated perspective.

Jane Eyre has been a project four years in the making,” said PAC Co-Founder/ Producing Artistic Director Damon Bonetti. “We were originally asked by a university to produce a Jane Eyre.  We read a number of adaptations but were dissatisfied with them all.  The Creative Team just had a hit with The Complete Works of Jane Austen, Abridged. Charlotte being with that cohort and also being tapped to play Jane, it made sense to create our own.  The pandemic made us rethink how we wanted to present this play in terms of location and making it an all professional cast.  So we decided to make it part of our first full season back.”

He added, “PAC produces theatre that is epic, but with a visceral intensity and a focus on the humanity in these stories.  This is a new play, but the story is almost 200 years old, and, in my recollection of working in the area since the mid ’90s, there has never been a production of Jane Eyre. PAC produces rare classics and this is a story rarely told on stage.”

To bring an epic story like this to stage PAC turned to longtime fan and friend Kathryn MacMillan, who is also the New Artistic Director of Inis Nua Theatre and the Producing Artistic Director of Tiny Dynamite. MacMillan had directed a PAC reading of A Month in the Country some years ago.  Additionally, MacMillan’s only professional acting credit was in the ensemble of The Fair Maid of the West, directed by Charlotte Northeast. For Jane Eyre, she would reunite with PAC and swap roles with Northeast – with Northeast acting and MacMillan directing.

“Of course Jane Eyre begins with Charlotte Northeast,” said MacMillan. “The writing team wrote with her voice (and her considerable skills!) in our minds. And this novel means so much to her–she brings so much passion and knowledge to her work. I’m excited to work with J. Paul Nicholas for the first time. He’s got incredible classical acting chops, which means he knows how to use language to drive action, without being precious about it. He is dashing and brooding, like Rochester, and he also has Rochester’s sly, ironic sense of humor, so he’s a great fit. There are lots of folks in the cast I’m working with for the first time, actually, which I always love to do, to learn a new actor’s ways and develop a rapport with them: Kimie Muroya, LaNeshe Miller-White (who it’s rare to get onstage!), Erin Read, Lexi Thammavong. And there are also actors I’ve worked with before, like Anna Lieberman, Cassie Alexander, and David Pica–we have a short hand together and share a lot of trust.”

“My name is Charlotte for a reason,” said Northeast. “My mother is a Bronte fan and I am named after the writer. When I was little, I was plunked in front of all the great adaptations of the novel and my fifth grade book report was on Jane Eyre. So you could say, I’ve been building up to this for a while. Jane resonates with me because she is described as ‘plain and little’ and yet she carves out such a life for herself that, at the time of publication, it was thought scandalous. Not because she does outrageous things but simply because she asks to be treated as she is – a woman of intelligence and curiosity in a world that didn’t always embrace that. I’ve always been little. I don’t generally wear makeup. It’s not part of who I am. But I take up space. I probably cross more lines than I should and sometimes people don’t expect that. I’m hoping to meld my affinity with Jane with the life that Brontë gives her in the novel and come up with something vital and new.”

In addition to Northeast as Jane Eyre, MacMillan directs a who’s who of theatre talent from around the region including J. Paul Nicholas (Rochester), Erin DeBlois Read (Aunt Reed, Jane 1), Kimie Muroya (Bessie, Jane 2), Lex Thammavong (Helen, Jane 3), Cassandra Alexander (Child Jane), David Pica (Brocklehurst, Dr. Carter, Priest, St. John), LaNeshe Miller-White (Miss Scatched, Mrs. Fairfax), Anna Faye Lieberman (John, Lydia, Grace Poole, Briggs), Madeline Garcia (Miss Temple, Blanche, Diana), and Anthony Diaz (Mason, Robert).

For the production team, Jane Eyre features the talents of (Stage Manager), Eilis Skamarakas (Assistant Stage Manager), Alyssandra Docherty (Lighting Designer), Janus Stefanowicz (Costume Designer), Meghan Jones (Set Designer), James Mobley (Technical Director), Damien Figueras (Sound/Projection Designer), Saria Rosenhaj (Props Designer), K. O’Rourke (Choreographer), Eli Lynn (Fight & Intimacy Director), Autumn Storm Blalock (Dramaturg), Len Kelly (Dialect Coach) and Damon Bonetti (Production Manager).

For the location and set, PAC specializes in performing site specific work and utilizing unique settings oftentimes with historic context. For Jane Eyre, PAC sought out Christmas Church Neighborhood House because of the rich historic character – with exposed brick walls, worn warm wood floors and of course the neighborhood it’s in with unique energy.

MacMillan said, ” What I have always loved about PAC shows is the way they make use of the surroundings to reinforce the setting. We do that here–it’s not fussy in a way that people might think of Victorian– there’s a sense of history, but it’s a bit industrial, open, epic.”

Bonetti added, “We are known for the intimacy of our work – usually defined by the intentional spaces where we produce. For this show, the Creative Team envisioned height being very important to the production.  Space is a premium in Philly, and there aren’t many spaces with the height that Neighborhood House has.  It seemed like a logical fit, also being right in the heart of Olde City, we wanted to be a part of and add to the excitement of that area for a month.”


The Beginning..

“Originally, this was conceived as a piece for collaboration with university students,” said Northeast. “We wanted to produce a show that, in keeping with PAC’s history of centering the stories of women (Mary Stuart, Fair Maid of the West, The Captive, Maria Marten to name a few) we thought this was a great vehicle. As we looked into published adaptations, though, we were dismayed to discover that the scripts centered the romance (Rochester’s arc) rather than the key relationships Jane forms with the women in her life.”

She added, “Given the success of our partnership on The Complete Works of Jane Austen, Abridged, it made sense to fire up the team once more to create our own adaptation – one that drew strength and inspiration from the key people that help form Jane as she makes her way from childhood to adulthood.”

The Middle…

“As a writing team, we developed a system to adapt the book,” explained Northeast. “It differed from how we did Jane Austen, Abridged. Bedford went through the novel first, laying down the tracks, so to speak, mapping out the major plot points in dialogue. Next, Winch added the scaffolding of the Jane chorus, allowing us the ability to take an internal novel and make it theatrical. Lastly, MacMillan and I steam-rolled through, tightening, sculpting and shifting. Then, as a group, we revisited the script to get it into rehearsal shape. Our first draft was over 265 pages long! The book is epic in scope so to get it to its essential elements and make it exciting for audiences is no easy task. We are constantly asking ourselves, “what is the most effective and vital way to get this point across while staying true to the book and the world we are building?” It’s a daunting task but we’re excited about this show and the hope that the script will have future life in other productions.”

The End…

When adapting the play, Northeast along with MacMillan, Bedford and Winch, all wanted to collectively bring a modern sensibility to the work. This also meant some key differences between the original and the final adaptation.

“The key difference between the original and the adaptation is that Bronte’s novel is interior — it’s filled with Jane’s thoughts that she doesn’t voice aloud,” said MacMillan. “The challenge with an adaptation is to move all that private thought into stage action. Also, the love story IS an important part of the story and Rochester’s and Jane’s relationship has the most stage time of any story line. But there’s also so much more–for us it was important to share how Jane becomes the woman she becomes, from girlhood into the assured narrator who’s telling us this story from later in her life, after the events of the novel. That’s a big part of where the chorus came from–from the influential women of Jane’s childhood who made her who she is. For good AND ill. Some of the voices that live in our heads are the people in our lives who have loved and believed in us. Some are the voices of those who have traumatized us. They have such power.”

Northeast added, “By amplifying the women in the story more, forgiving Rochester less and humanizing Bertha (spoiler alert for anyone who doesn’t know the book). When the book was written, women did not have the agency they have today and we want to honor and tease out what Brontë started with her (at the time) radical ideas about equality and respect. Rochester is a much discussed and paradoxical character. He is not easy to define. It’s easy to cast him as the villain but also too easyao forgive him if we buy into classical romance tropes. We want to explore the gooey in-between space. People are not perfect and they often do things when traumatized that end up traumatizing others. We are trying to find the balance in Rochester’s arc so that modern audiences will be open to exploring that in-between as well.”

PAC will conclude their 2022/2023 season with the New Ventures Play Festival on June 5 and 12, 2023, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm, at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake (302 S. Hicks Street), in Center City, Philadelphia. Presented with support from Honorary Producers Gayle and David Smith.

To celebrate the vitality of classical themes in new work, PAC is excited to announce the 3rd Annual New Ventures Play Festival. Playwrights have submitted new works of no more than 10 minutes, inspired by the classics and based on a theme. The theme for the 2023 festival is The Evolution of Human Rights. The festival is free for audiences to attend.

A panel of readers read, discussed, and judged all submissions (last year there were over 130!) and they have chosen five finalists whose work will be presented in two evenings of world-premiere staged readings. Congratulations to the final five:

Anne Then Some –  Allison Fradkin
Ubu Impeached –  Michael Maiello
Company of Spiders –  Matthew Park
The Venus Problem – Ang Bey
Those Pitying Saints –  Anne Valentino

While the festival is free, reservations are highly suggested at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.