Julie-Kate Cooper decided she had to come back.
The Garner native returned home to teach drama at Garner Magnet High School after spending time in Lexington, Ky., at a theater internship. She directed her first student production in that role, “Pride and Prejudice,” which was performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at Garner High.
Marie Jones, Rory Neer, Adam King and Savannah Baber, play lead roles (Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet) in the stage adaptation of the book, which was written in 1813, 200 years ago this year.
The novel, set in contemporary times when it was written, follows Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and the courtship of their five daughters. Because of English property law, they cannot inherit Mr. Bennet’s home when he dies, so they all must find husbands. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley (played by J.P. Guyton) vie for the daughters’ affection.
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“I think this play is about waiting and searching for the love that you deserve,” Cooper said. “I hope that they all will take away from it that they deserve to find love.”
Cooper praised the group’s work on the performance, which she said has risen to what she admits are high expectations. She said that heightened language and English accents increased the degree of difficulty for the cast.
“These students will work their hardest for you. They have welcomed me, taken my direction, and soaked it all in. I feel very fortunate to be working with such dedicated young people,” Cooper said. “That’s what I was hopeful for; they do want to take challenges and they do want to match (the expectations.) They are all very good kids; very respectful.”
The play had 20 cast members who also had to orchestrate fluid scene changes, which Cooper also called demanding.
Baber, King and Jones are all juniors; Guyton and Neer are seniors.
“There are some very talented students in this cast that are so wonderful to watch on stage,” Cooper said. “I chose this play without knowing who was going to come out and audition. I was fortunate and lucky that some great kids came out.”
Cooper went to Meredith College where she earned a degree in theater after graduating from Southeast Raleigh High School. Though she earned her K-12 teaching license, she had designs on working in professional theater.
She called the internship program in Lexington – at Lexington Children’s theater – amazing and thought she would continue with an eye toward Washington, D.C., or Chicago. Instead she said she missed family and decided to return.
“The opening came up here in Garner so I jumped on it. I feel very blessed,” Cooper said.