“It is difficult to be a young adult in the best of circumstances and, as a somewhat older adult, I find this added pressure deeply daunting.”
Teenagers today have a vastly different coming-of-age experience than that of the Dashwood sisters, the fictional teenagers in Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” who matured in 18th-century England. Clark professors, however, see a clear parallel between the story’s Regency-era society and contemporary social challenges.
That correlation will take center stage this weekend as Clark Theatre Arts performs the Kate Hamill adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility.”
“This adaptation thrives on playfulness, challenging conventions, and collaboration,” says MaryBeth DeKara, a professor in Clark’s Visual and Performing Arts Department and director of the production. “I think Clark students can also be described as playful collaborators who challenge convention.”
The story follows the fortunes and misfortunes of sensible Elinor Dashwood and hypersensitive Marianne Dashwood after their father’s sudden death leaves them vulnerable and financially destitute as they face societal pressures. Hamill’s version contains all the gossip and plot twists of the original, challenging misogyny through a playful and strong female voice. The story has modern implications, especially with feminist theory, which DeKara says encouraged her to select the show for production.
“Kate Hamill is a feminist playwright who really wants to connect beloved classics to today’s audiences,” she says. “I think Jane Austen was also a feminist of her time, and I want to celebrate the work of both of these women.”
“It is difficult to be a young adult in the best of circumstances and, as a somewhat older adult, I find this added pressure deeply daunting,” Darrell-Jarbadan says. “Hopefully this production will give our students a chance to laugh along, and empathize, with the struggles of the Dashwood sisters as they take their first steps into the adult world surrounded at all sides by watching eyes, whispering voices, and a good dose of absurdity.”
The ensnarement of young adults in modern gossip via technology and social media is central to the production of the show and its modern relevance, she says.
Both DeKara and Darrell-Jarbadan agree that “Sense and Sensibility,” as both a novel and play adaptation, contains messages that are important for Clarkies to engage with and consider.
“Sense and Sensibility” will have four performances at the Michelson Theatre:
Tickets are free with a Clark ID and $5 for the public and can be purchased online.