As a director, I begin by asking, “Why are we telling this story right now?” This is particularly important with a classic story. I’m not particularly interested in “museum theater.” I think if one wants to see the past reenacted in complete historical detail, one can turn on the BBC. I want to create theater that gets to a deeper heart of why a story is retold over time and why it’s important to tell again today.
For me, my answer to “Why Sense and Sensibility right now?” came with this new adaptation. Playwright Kate Hamill has skillfully captured the subversive wit and sincere heart of Austen. She also balances the high stakes financial plight of Dashwood sisters against the absurdity of the society that surrounds them.
In our very first conversation Kate talked about her impetus for writing this adaptation: “in Austen’s society there is a cost to Elinor following all the rules, and Marianne breaking them. And although much has changed, there is still a cost today to either following all the societal norms or breaking them. “ The gossip mill of regency England could build or destroy a reputation. So can our modern-day Twitter accounts and Facebook feeds.
That complexity is at the heart of Austen’s tale, and I think is the reason her stories still speak to us. When it comes to romance, her heroines (and a few of her heroes) follow what they think will make them happy, instead of what others tell them will make them happy. Through trial and error, awkwardness and grace, they hold out for a love that sees them in all of their flawed, endearing complexity. In doing so they find a partner, an equal. That’s a story that transcends time, and can still lift our hearts today.
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