Drama department to tackle another Jane Austen adaptation

September 11, 2019 — by Marisa Kingsley and Jessica Wang

The drama department announced that this year’s fall play will be an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” by Kate Hamill, produced in 2014. 

While the original book was published in 1811, there have been many stage adaptations of Austen’s work for modern audiences. Drama teacher Sarah Thermond partly attributes their popularity to her decision to ultimately direct another Jane Austen play, as well as exposure for her students to the trends in professional and college-level theater, along with a broader range of roles. 

Thermond, a self-described Jane Austen fan, said that she felt hesitant at first about deciding to do another Jane Austen adaptation after directing an adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” at Saratoga in 2015. But she eventually overcame her doubts. 

“[Sense and Sensibility] feels a little fresher and feels a little less like someone took all the dialogue from the book and put it in a play,” Thermond said. “It feels more like a verified adaptation.” 

The adaptation diverges from the original text with new characters that allows flexibility within roles compared to “Pride and Prejudice.” Thermond also thinks the adaptation will provide students with more stylistic and creative opportunities with their roles as well. 

“It’s important that while we find actors whose performance reflects the reality of that time period, they’re finding a way to show genuine emotion without being able to resort to really large dramatics,” Thermond said.

The play, set in Victorian England, follows the Dashwood family — a mother and her three unmarried daughters — as they try to rebuild themselves after the loss of their father and his estate, while focusing on the two older daughters, Elinor and Marrianne, as they navigate through troublesome romantic relationships. 

Another notable difference is the broad range of female roles. Thermond wanted to direct a piece that would offer a variety of female roles to account for the large amount of dedicated female performers within the department.

Senior Ritika Kuppam, who plans to audition for the production, said that while she is unfamiliar with Jane Austen’s work, she’s excited to do a show out of her comfort zone. 

“The show is a little different from others because of how female dominated it is,” Kuppam said. “I’m interested to see how it pans out.” 

Many of Austen’s original works critique and parody the common portrayal of women at the time, especially of the ironies of marriage. Thermond anticipates that there will be some who believe that Austen is too dated for a modern audience to connect to. Yet, she expressed that students should not fixate on the time period, but connect to the themes of social pressures and finding balance within relationships. 

“The play explores the fact that there needs to be a happy medium between trying to be trying to be the responsible, reliable one who doesn’t make poor decisions. But also needing to trust your heart and follow it a little bit more,” Thermond said. 

Auditions were held on Sept. 10 and 12. The cast list has yet to be released. The show will debut on Saturday, Nov. 16 and their last show will be on Nov. 23.