Guthrie offers a young woman's view of 'Sensibility'

Kate Hamill at the Guthrie Theater.
Actress and playwright Kate Hamill sits in the Patricia and Peter Kitchak Lounge at the Guthrie Theater on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Minneapolis.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A dramatic adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel "Sense and Sensibility" opens Friday at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

The story of the young Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, was adapted by actress and playwright Kate Hamill.

Hamill told MPR's Marianne Combs that she wrote the play in an effort to create more interesting stage roles for women.

Here are some excerpts of their interview:

Not enough roles for women, onstage or off

"If you're an actress in the theater, and arguably if you're a woman playing almost any role, onstage or off, in theater, historically your opportunities have been limited. And by 'historically,' I mean up to current day. Three-quarters of all new plays and adaptations produced last year in the United States were by men. And when you add to that the fact that a lot of things produced in the United States are also classics — I mean in Shakespeare, it's 16 to 3, men's roles to women's roles, and roles are jobs, and jobs are careers. So I was just seeing female artists — actors, designers, directors — dropping out all around me because there wasn't enough work for them. And I got very frustrated, so I thought well, if I'm going to do this thing, I'm going to have to do it myself."

Why a new 'Sense and Sensibility'?

"It has been adapted for the stage before. I felt like I had a young, female perspective, which is fairly unusual; most adapters of Austen are men. And I also felt like, for me, 'Sense and Sensibility' is so much about our reaction to social pressures. Do we conform to the rules that have been set for us, like Elinor, or do we break them, like Marianne? I really wanted contemporary audiences to feel the kind of social pressure that these women felt. So I created this device, sort of a Greek chorus, called the Gossips. And they get us through the play by commenting and involving the audience and making us feel like we're part of the people judging these two sisters."

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