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Since reading it for the first time in middle school, english teacher Jeannette Bonjour has always loved Jane Eyre. Now from 6:30 p.m to 10 p.m, five days a week, she can be found sitting in a plastic chair on the tile floor of the Barn Players Community Theater watching her favorite book come to life.
This has been the routine for Bonjour, the director of the show, since rehearsals started in late February. “Jane Eyre the Musical” is set to take the stage April 15-May 1. Bonjour, who has been in previous shows at the Barn, applied for a directing position at the beginning of the theater season.
Teaching the book in her AP Literature and Composition class for the past eight years, Bonjour has practically memorized the intricate details and the plot of the classic novel. After reading it multiple times, Bonjour found she connected specifically to young Jane.
“It was the first classic novel I ever read, and I was in seventh grade,” Bonjour said. “I think the combination of how powerful and emotional the book is, along with my teen girl self, really made me connect to it in a powerful way.”
Taking theater classes in middle school, Bonjour found a love for the arts. She participated in the musical every year throughout middle school and high school, and then did local theater after she graduated. Since moving to Prairie Village from Lawrence, she has done musicals at multiple venues, including the Barn Players, Musical Theater Heritage and Theater in the Park.
Before coming to East, Bonjour taught English and drama in Lawrence. After leaving Lawrence High School, she stopped teaching Drama and stuck to just English, but has still managed to incorporate theatre in her life and teaching. Transitioning between teaching and directing, Bonjour shifts between two different styles when it comes to explaining the story of Jane Eyre.
“With directing the play it is easier to say, ‘This is what happens in the book dadadada, ” Bonjour said. “I am more quick to fill in gaps in rehearsal when in an academic pursuit it is more about having them get there on there own.”
Teaching at East for the past 16 years, Bonjour has managed to incorporate her passion and high levels of energy and creativity into her day to day by assigning creative projects in the place of summative assessments.
“I think my students would say that I am dramatic and I like to ‘take the stage’ at times in class,” Bonjour said. “I also use creative dramatics, especially when teaching Shakespeare or other plays.”
Running the lights for the upcoming show and sitting in her class every day, senior Leah O’Connor spends a considerable amount of time with Bonjour. O’Connor has participated in theater at East and throughout the community for the past several years.
“Usually the line between teacher and director only gets crossed in that we talk about the show during class, but rarely about school during rehearsal,” O’Connor said. “In both situations she is in a superior position to me, but as my director we are more candid and more like friends rather than the strict student teacher relationship.”
In a few weeks when the curtains open, the spots of black paint on the stage will be covered and the cast will be their era costumes. Her job and pastimes will come together, the curtains will open and Bonjour’s favorite book will come to life on the Barn stage.