In creating The Austen Escape, I looked to Mansfield Park for a crucial piece of inspiration. Jane Austen didn’t have a new concept to give me — Shakespeare used the same device in The Merchant of Venice — but she used it perfectly, and that’s all the inspiration I needed…
In the center of Mansfield Park, we find a delicious play, “Lovers’ Vows.” Now it’s not a delicious play because of anything inherent in the play, what is so interesting and intriguing is what the play reveals about the characters who dress up for the roles and practice behind the drawn curtains. Through this role play, we see the true Julia and Maria, the true Edmund (at that moment) and the true Fanny. The characters are more free in character, in role play, than they are moving through their lives. They are “safe” to be themselves in the world of fantasy.
In The Austen Escape, I take Mary and Isabel (a nod to Northanger Abbey as that too is a novel about waking up, paying attention and learning about life) and put them in a decadent dress up world of a Regency resort in Bath, England. Through that world, and the lens of role play, Mary and Isabel meet themselves and jealousies, angers, fears and truths emerge — thoughts and feelings they have denied for years.
What about role play in real life?
It’s a device that isn’t just employed on the page. I remember coaches constantly tell me, “envision yourself winning the match, hitting the overhead…” That is role play. You envision — in sports, in work, at school, on stage — the outcome you hope to achieve.
I can attest to the stage part. When I get up on a stage to talk, I am much cooler and far more confident than in real life. 😉 A friend of mine has even given a name to more savvy public persona. Perhaps mine can be “Jane.”
Is there a little role play in your life?