Fall play cast list released; auditions focus on vocal poise, depth

September 22, 2019 — by Anjali Nuggehalli and Edwin Chen

Soon after “Sense and Sensibility” was announced as the fall play on Sept. 16, the drama department went through the casting process. Drama teacher Sarah Thermond oversaw auditions, searching for the qualities successful actors would need in this play.

The play, set in Victorian England, follows the Dashwood family — a mother, played by senior Ritika Kuppam, and her three unmarried daughters — as they try to rebuild themselves after the loss of their father and his estate. The plot focuses on the two older daughters, Elinor (played by senior Emilie Prillwitz) and Marrianne (played by senior Eman Ahmad), as they navigate troublesome romantic relationships. 

Other cast members include sophomore Taylor Zhou as Colonel Brandon, junior Elsa Ashraf as Lady Middleton and sophomore LJ Trueba as Sir John Middleton. 

Thermond said that the actors must delve deeper than just reciting the words from the script to play their parts effectively.

“Actors are often so focused on reading the words on the page during audition that they forget to bring their own ideas about how the character should be played,” Thermond said. “I encourage actors to take a unique take on their character and communicate it to the audience.” 

For the first of two audition days starting on Sept. 5, students were asked to prepare a monologue from the script. They were then asked to read a different  monologue that contrasted with the mood of the previous one so for Thermond could get an idea of everyone’s range.

“The monologue reading really demonstrates the actor’s take on the reading and how they interpret the character they’re playing,” Thermond said. “It shows their ability to hold the stage and make a long dialogue interesting and engaging.”

The second day of auditions was for callbacks, a process in which certain actors are invited back for further review. The students did a dancing activity in order to get a feel for the early 1800s time period. They also did group readings to see how different people work together. 

“While casting, we really observed how people interacted with each other,” Thermond said. “‘Sense and Sensibility’ is centered around relationships and people’s perceptions of each other, so it’s really important that the actors read well together.”

Junior Shauman Jafri said he found his auditions nerve-racking. 

“I was really scared that I was going to mess up my line or that I wasn’t expressing myself enough,” Jafri said. 

Jafri, who will play Thomas, a servant in the play, finds that the play’s emphasis on personal connection provides a challenge in understanding the different characters and acting out different emotional levels. He is tasked with playing a character who is loyal but socially unaware. 

“Trying to play out the body language of the character and emphasizing vocal traits makes playing this character hard but fun,” Jafri said.
The casting process behind “Sense and Sensibility,” based on Jane Austen’s novel, is more comprehensive than just successfully reading lines. The actors must read between the lines and form their own interpretation of how they want to depict their character.

“Putting together this production is like a giant jig-saw puzzle,” Thermond said. “Recognizing an actor’s intuition to portray a unique story line is what makes a great performance.” 

“Sense and Sensibility” will debut on Nov. 16 and play its last show on Nov. 23.


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