“Discovering Austen,” an original, one-woman show about author Jane Austen, will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Kristin Hammargren portrays an actor who has been cast as Jane Austen.
As the actor searches for the essence of her character just hours from opening, she explores Austen’s writing in an attempt to find the author in the pages of her novels and letters.
“Discovering Austen” features excerpts from Austen’s novels, letters and lesser-known early work,
The one-woman play seeks to sort through the modern Austen hysteria and historically inaccurate scholarship to find Austen’s true story.
Almost since her six novels were written and her early death, Austen has been prone to the whims of history.
Her family portrayed her as the chaste model of domestic decorum in Victorian times.
Through the early 20th century, academics criticized her as a shrewd and bitter spinster.
Today’s contemporary films reduced her into a romantic comedy model.
Hammargren initially developed “Discovering Austen” as her thesis project for her Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She knew she wanted to write about Austen but was unsure what that would look like.
The more research Hammargren did, the more she realized there is not one story to tell about Austen’s life.
“So much of the story is how her legacy has been treated since her death, and I had a lot of questions about what was true and who she actually was,” she said. “Essentially, my writing process became the story of the actor in Discovering Austen trying to figure out who Jane Austen was.”
“Discovering Austen” premiered at UW-Madison in January of 2012.
Hammargren was awarded the David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Fellowship for a Graduate Woman in the Arts, which supported a fully realized production that ran for three nights in the Hemsley Theatre.
In 2013, the script was selected as one of three for the Wisconsin Wrights New Play Development Project.
Over the course of a week, Hammargren rewrote and edited the script, with the help of a director, actor and dramaturg.
The workshop culminated in a public staged reading.
A Beyond the Page grant brought “Discovering Austen” to six libraries in the Madison area in April 2014.
The show also ran for three nights in Livingston, Montana last August.
Hammargren is an actor and singer based in the Midwest.
Born and raised in Minnesota, she grew up doing musical theater and studying voice in her hometown of Bloomington.
Hammargren graduated from Lawrence University with a degree in theater and vocal performance.