The story may be one you’re familiar with but there’s plenty to draw you in to the Guthrie’s production of Pride and Prejudice.
For starters, they’re bringing in a big name with local ties — “Mad Men’s” Vincent Kartheiser. Kartheiser, who grew up in Minnesota, said in an interview with WCCO two years ago that a Guthrie production may be in his future. With the role of Mr. Darcy, it seems his timing is impeccable.
Alongside Kartheiser is a bit of a newcomer — Ashley Rose Montondo, who will play Elizabeth Bennet after a sudden change in plans. This is Montondo’s first major role on the national stage — one that she says is the dream of a lifetime.
We chatted with Montondo recently about everything from her big name co-star to the whirlwind of a last-minute leading role.
Tell us a little about your background. Where did you get the acting bug?
I’ve always wanted to be an actor or performer. When I was really young, I was a dancer and gymnast and my mom had me in acting camps during the summer. As soon as I got older, and I was able to take my extra curricular activities, I stuck with theater. I ended up going to a boarding arts high school my last two years to study acting and that’s what brought me to Minnesota.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from South Carolina.
And you’re a graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. What did you think of Minnesota’s theater scene when you got here?
I fell in love. The theater scene in South Carolina is pretty non-existent, except for small town community theater or shows that come in on tours. There really wasn’t a sense of theater community, like there is here. And over the course of the six and a half years that I’ve been here, I feel like I’ve gotten to be really close to the community here. I have a lot of good friends and a lot of people I consider to be my family.
How did the role come about for Pride and Prejudice?
I was a replacement for Erin Krakow, when she got a different offer. I was able to step in the very first day of rehearsal and it stuck. So it was kind of a dream come true.
I would imagine it was a bit of a whirlwind, too?
Yes, definitely. But it all happened so fast. There never any time to get bogged down to think about it. It was more, ‘Well, let’s go and have some fun, do what I want to do.’
Plus you were playing alongside Vincent Kartheiser, of “Mad Men.” What was your reaction to that?
Well at first … I have no idea. It all happened so fast but I can tell you through the rehearsal process, it’s been a really, a true pleasure to work with him. I grew up “Angel” and I had seen some other movies that he was in when he was much younger, and I’m a big fan of “Mad Men,” so this is been a real delight. He’s such an amazing actor. He’s incredibly talented and he really cares very deeply about doing good, honest work.
What did you know about Pride & Prejudice before accepting this role?
I knew the book very well. I was a huge Jane Austen fan throughout middle school and high school. So the three books I read was “Pride and Prejudice,” “Mansfield Park” and “Emma.”
What would you say to audiences coming to see the show on what they can expect?
It’s such a beautiful story. I mean, it’s the quintessential love story. And it’s such a fun cast of characters that are all involved in this crazy story. But it’s so much fun. For me, it’s really fun to do. It’s a fun journey to watch, to see two people fall in love with each other and be humbled by one another. They both help balance out the other. It’s really touching.
Your character, Elizabeth Bennet, is a bit of a spitfire. What inspiration did you draw from for this performance?
I think I’m naturally pretty spunky. I’m a pretty independent, strong-minded young lady. So I don’t think it was too hard to jump on board with Elizabeth, who is very strong willed, very opinionated and won’t back down.
You were also in Charley’s Aunt at the Guthrie. What is it like for you to be performing in this space again?
Between all three spaces in the theater, over the course of training, we spent many hours playing on those spaces and learning how to use those spaces and how to play them. So to have an opportunity to have an audience there is even better. It feels like I never really left. I had many experiences doing workshops here and being an understudy a few times so it’s really like I’ve been taken in to the Guthrie family.
For people familiar with the story, how does this production and this show bring something different and special?
It’s hard to fit a novel into an appropriate time that people want to sit in the theater. But I think what this show does and why I think the adaptation is so strong and so smart is because it keeps the story moving. It really feels like, you just get taken on this whirlwind of a ride of a love story. It feels like the ride never stops. I think what true fans of Jane Austen are going to enjoy about this show is it’s all the smart language that she has, it’s all of the heart, it’s all of the wisdom and soul but it also takes you on a really lovely ride.
“Pride and Prejudice” officially opens Friday and continues through Aug. 31 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater. Tickets start at $30 and are on sale through the Guthrie Box Office and online on their website.