by Syrie James and Diana Birchall

The theme of the 2012 JASNA AGM in Brooklyn was "Sex, Money, and Power in the novels of Jane Austen." Syrie and Diana Birchall were thrilled to write, produce, and perform in a staged reading of a comedic Austen-themed play as a breakout session.

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Here’s the logline of THE AUSTEN ASSIZES: "Three of Austen’s most colorful characters are put on trial for crimes committed involving abuses of power, sex, and money in a delectably disputatious verbal free-for-all." (The "Assizes" were periodic criminal courts once held in England and Wales. The word assize refers to the sittings or sessions–Old French assises–of the judges, who traveled across the seven circuits, setting up court and summoning juries at the various Assize Towns.)

In the play, a judge hears three cases; the audience is the jury; the defendants and the prosecutors (all well known Austen characters) take the stand simultaneously; and hilarity ensues.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is put on trial for abuse of power; Mr. John Willougby for harassment and sexual seduction; and Lucy Steele for criminal mercenary intent and another, far more serious charge (watch the video to find out what it is!)

Pitting Lady Catherine against the flighty Mrs. Bennett, and Mr. Willoughby against the sterling Colonel Brandon and Marianne, turned out to be hilarious indeed–-and Syrie had a wonderful time playing the nefarious Lucy Steele.

The play was an hour long, filled with standout performances from our cast and one laugh after another. We estimate that 300 people attended, and their response was thrilling, ending with a standing ovation that brought down the house! Diana and Syrie were delighted to learn that "The Austen Assizes" was voted the number one breakout session at this year's AGM.

If you belong to an organization, educational institution, or JASNA chapter that would like to put on a production of the original play "The Austen Assizes," please contact Syrie. It is available for a royalty fee to produce in your home town!