Ashley Rose Montondo.
Image courtesy the Guthrie Theater
Since graduating from the University of Minnesota and Guthrie Theater's B.F.A. program in 2011, Ashley Rose Montondo has performed with a number of theaters around the Twin Cities, including having a role in Charley's Aunt. She takes center stage in the Guthrie's Pride and Prejudice, playing Elizabeth Bennet in the new adaptation.
The role is an absolute thrill. "It has been a dream come true to take center stage like this," Montondo says. "It is such an ensemble experience. I have worked with most people in the cast before, so I have all of my friends and family around me."
The previous Guthrie experience "has definitely taken the stress level way down. I never had any nerves because the room is so friendly and supportive," she says.
The role itself is also a thrill for Montondo, who describes herself as a massive Jane Austen fan. "I think it is smart women being wickedly smart in all of her books. In Pride and Prejudice, it is a strong woman who is able to stand up for her own personal truth," Montondo says.
To prepare, Montondo reread the original novel. Also, the actors were give plenty of materials at the beginning of rehearsal, including information on period mannerisms and the social situation in Jane Austen's world. There were also movies to watch, such as The Madness of King George and "all of the Jane Austen movies ever made," she says.
Getting the social graces correct is vital for the show. "If one of thing is out of whack, it just wouldn't happen in their social world," Montondo says.
Montondo is partnered with Vincent Kartheiser, a Minnesota native who has gone on to fame on Mad Men, who plays Mr. Darcy. Working with the veteran actor has "been a dream," she says.
That doesn't mean everything in the show has been a breeze. "Dancing and talking [at the same time] is the hardest thing. You have to count in your head, do a scene, and remember what you are doing onstage," she says.
Montondo came to Minnesota from South Carolina, where she went to an arts high school. After a visit from Ken Washington of the B.F.A., the actor applied, auditioned, and was accepted into the program. The experience was a positive one, and she has gone on to make Minnesota her home base as a performer. And while school is over, the training is not.
"Every single show is a learning process. Here, it is how to take these intimate scenes between two people and share them with that huge Thrust space," Montondo says. "I've had the best learning experience, as I've watched every show here in the last six and a half years."
Pride and Prejudice
Through August 31
818 S. Second St., Minneapolis
For tickets and information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online