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No Refund Theatre To Perform ‘An Education’

Jenny Mellor is getting some extra special attention this weekend in No Refund Theatre’s latest production of “An Education,” a play adaptation of the 2009 movie starring Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. Like NRT’s production of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” last month, the play’s director, who is also an editor for Onward State, Anna Foley got special permission to produce the story on-stage.

“I got an email from Nick Hornby who is the screenwriter and it was the shortest email I’ve ever gotten; it was just, ‘Anna, let’s do this, Nick,’” Foley said. “He actually reached out to Lynn Barber, who the story is based on, and she gave me permission to tell her story, and Nick granted me permission to use his screenplay.”

Foley spent two weeks intensively working on the script of the play, which includes parts of Hornby’s screenplay and monologues from Barber’s autobiography. After everything was said and done, Foley spent two months designing the production.

“I have always wanted to do an adaption for NRT because, for me, this is what NRT is all about. It’s about taking something and creating it as a group of students.”

“An Education” is a universal coming-of-age story that follows Jenny Mellor, a 16-year old Oxford hopeful, as special attention from David Goldman, an older man, interrupts her intensive studies and offers her the opportunity for an education on life.

David and Jenny meet for the first time.
David and Jenny meet for the first time.

Foley believes this is a story about the loss of innocence that anyone can relate to. “Everyone can point to a moment when they can say, ‘yes, I’ve felt betrayed like she did.’ Everyone can point to a moment when they felt frustrated with their parents.”

Assistant Director Alex Howard said that this story doesn’t just explore the growth of Jenny, but of her parents as well, whose priorities sometimes trump what’s best for Jenny.

“It’s not really talked about, you know, but parents grow from raising children too,” Howard said.

"Boyfriend, more like a man-friend!"
“Boyfriend, more like a man-friend!”

Connor Davis and Lauren Ritter, the actor and actress who play David and Jenny, both worked closely with the film to help step into their roles.

“I want my character on stage to be as real as possible, so I watched the movie a lot to see sort of how Jenny’s emotions changed throughout the story, and then I figured out what I could put my flair into,” Ritter said.

Davis looked to Peter Sarsgaard’s portrayal of David for inspiration, but also borrowed character traits from Jay Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby.”

“The most important thing in coming up with this character was back story, because I need to have a valid reason why someone would do this, compulsively,” Davis said. “I looked at what Peter Sarsgaard tried to do with the character, and I drew a lot from what Jay Gatsby might have been like if he were a bit darker and took a more realistic turn.”

David brings Jenny to an auction
David brings Jenny to an auction.

Davis and Ritter are successful in crafting a believable relationship between a 16 and a 48-year old onstage that allows the audience to invest itself into the drama and the ethics of the situation.

This relationship, coupled with the well-rounded talent of the cast and dynamic writing, makes NRT’s “An Education” a compelling and relatable story that explores many taboo and under-discussed issues.

Jenny's father has some regrets...
Jenny’s father has some regrets…

“An Education” is playing at the Flex Theatre in the HUB on December 10 and 11 at 9 p.m. As with all NRT shows, admission is free, and check out the Facebook page for more information.

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About the Author

Nick Weiss

Nick is a videographer at OnwardState. He is a sophomore in the College of Communications, studying as a Film & Video major. With most of his experience in documentary film, Nick continues to tell stories at Penn State. Email him [email protected]

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