2009 Republic of Pemberley AGM - Sonoma, CA

On Sunday morning, (and other mornings, too) the early risers would slowly gather, one or two at a time, and each newcomer was welcomed around one main table. Chairs were moved aside to make room for just one more. It is one of the things that makes Pemberley special, the sense of welcome.
Sitting in the sun After breakfast, a few people headed off to sightsee or get a massage. After lunch we boarded a bus and took off for Berkeley. We were kind of quiet on the bus, with many people catching post luncheon catnaps so they could remain awake during the production of Lady Susan that we were all anticipation to see.

The Lady Susan set consisted of a single room with three doors (2 leading to the hallway through which we entered and 1 across the room from that). The audience (of which Pemberleans were about 75%) sat on chairs, which were located on the floor/stage and on a riser behind that row.

Just as the play was getting started, one of the actors (a comely young man) came in and displayed two signs--one said "Welcome," and the other said "Pemberley.com." We burst into applause and, later, explained to the rest of the audience just what ROP is.

The play was very cleverly done. There was an actress representing Jane Austen on the stage, who was writing the work as we looked on. The characters would get into the action, but then come to a (sometimes impatient) halt while Jane considered how the next plot twist should go. (Once she turned to Rita, who was seated right behind, as if asking her a question on how to proceed.) Sometimes her characters did not like what she wished them to do, and had their own ideas on how the action should play out.

Welcome to Lady Susan
At the Lady Susan performance Much of Jane Austen's role was silent deliberating or arranging of characters and props on stage whenever she was not at her writing desk. Sometimes the characters read their letters out loud, with "Jane" listening as the recipient of the letter. Once an audience member was pressed into service as the recipient of a letter, and had to wear a most fetching hat for a few moments.

The play inserted an interesting subtext, showing Jane as a young writer becoming overwhelmed by Lady Susan's feistiness. Quite near the end, Lady Susan surprised the audience by speaking directly to Jane: "You know very well that I am the most interesting person in this story!"

The actors did a very good job. The highlight was Sir James, played with superlative, hilarious, mastery by Matt Weimer. You know you have a good actor on the stage when you can seize the character in the instant the actor walks on the stage. We just LOL'd when he entered the stage. The striped stockings! The pale make-up! The foppish aqua cravat pin! The amazing wig that alone spoke volumes -- but his countenance made the character. And you definitely got that when Sir James appeared in all his pretentious silliness!

Manwaring was rather good looking, so you could see how Lady Susan would fall for him. Lady Susan's costume was a quite striking black and gray apron over a beautiful silk shift, with her hair all wild and let down, which was very much in character. Mrs. Vernon's costume was a very simple but beautiful rose gown, and her hair was in a tight chignon with a flimsy little cap covering it up.

Hanging out We were all quite pleased with the play and the ride back to Westerbeke was filled with comments about the play. We also convinced our female bus driver that she ought to check out Pemberley.

After yet another lovely meal, we settled in for the evening's entertainment. While we didn't have a musical version of Persuasion, I had written a little ditty about Capt. Wentworth singing the tale of his ships to the tune of the Gilligan's Island theme song. Carol & Debra R were able to perform it with only 5 minutes of practice! (Thanks Carol & Debra R!)

The Story of the Asp & the Laconia

(Captain Wentworth)
Just sit right back and you will hear a tale,
A tale of a fated ship.
That started from an English port
On a westward trip

(sung by the Musgrove girls)
Wentworth is a mighty sailing man
A captain brave and sure

(Captain W)
A hundred men set sail that day
for a twelve month tour, a twelve month tour
never had the weather getting rough
Took privateers enough
A toast for the courage of my fearless crew,
A French frigate in view; a French frigate in view
The Asp she fought the frigate and won that round and brought it home
to Plymouth town, when a gale blew
that lasted four days and nights
and which wrecked the poor old Asp in half that time
She rests now in the brine

This is the tale of my LaconIa
I sailed her a long, long time
I always thought her the best of ships
When came a friend of mine
joined this crew so fine
we did our very best
to make the French uncomfortable
on our western island quest
No ship, no sloop, nor merchant grand
possessed the luxury

(Musgrove girls)
Like Admiral Nelson

(Captain W)
Of our ever letting them be
The summer next my friend came again,
To the Mediterranean an
From seven ships we brought to shore
We took home prizes galore

After the song, we played "One Thing You Don't Know About Me: Celebrity Edition" wherein the Pemberleans noted down either A) a close encounter with a celebrity, B) some degree of separation from a celebrity, C) your first celebrity crush or wild or crazy dream involving a celebrity.

Here are a few of our celebrity encounters: Chubby Checker, Dave Matthews, Johnny Mathis, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Kathryn Hepburn, Coldplay, Dustin Hoffman, Betty Freidan and George Clooney. There were many others.

View videos That evening we also viewed a hilarious little video, "Visiting the Ladies of Pemberley," courtesy of Karen2L's husband Rick, http://www.vimeo.com/5575328, which includes a paean to the hetero-normative, Habermansian view of Jane Austen. If the young ladies did not put you to sleep and you wish to read more, the original article can be found here: http://www.19.bbk.ac.uk/issue7/papers/brideoake_republicofpemberley.pdf

On Sunday night, many of us were reluctant to turn in, for there were only few hours remaining to be among the best of company.

Epilogue, Monday morning
Monday is always bittersweet. The number of Pemberleans dwindles as groups of 2 or 3 or 4 or more would leave us to catch flights home or begin an extended vacation. By lunch time, there were probably less than half the ladies present.

However, this is time when Mr. Darcy drops his usual stiffness and mingles among the ladies. He donned an apron and called us all to lunch, stood in line for his meal and even modeled a stylish Westerbeke T-shirt.

Mr. Darcy less formally attired
After lunch, a delicious use of the weekend's leftovers, the long good-bye of the remaining members was, as always, the worse part of the weekend, the time when you wish you could turn back time and the weekend could start all over again. The best we could do was promise to meet again the following year in Cape Cod.


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