Sense & Sensibility adapter Kate Hamill is an NYC-based actor and writer who originated the role of Marianne Dashwood in the Bedlam production of Sense & Sensibility. She spoke with Folger Theatre on opening day of our production. This interview has been edited and condensed.
FT: Why did you decide to adapt Sense & Sensibility?
KH: When you are an actress in New York there are always going to be more roles for men than for women. I think the ratio is something like 16:3 in Shakespeare’s plays and I quickly got frustrated. Even just last year, three quarters of all the plays in New York were written by men. I love Shakespeare, I love O’Neill, and all those classics so I decided that if there were going to be more classical roles for women, I would need to write them.
FT: You play Marianne Dashwood in the Bedlam production. What makes you a Marianne rather than an Elinor?
KH: Most of us – there are extremes of course – but most of us fall into one category or another, either a Marianne or an Elinor. If you cry at Hallmark commercials, you’re a Marianne. If you are the one to bring snacks on a long car trip, you’re an Elinor. People tend to skew one way or another and I think you can tell immediately when you meet them.
FT: How did the Sense & Sensibility script change as you rehearsed it?
KH: The script was pretty settled when we were working on it in New York. However I did make some tweaks in the rehearsal room based on the energy of the actors in the room. If someone had a brilliant ad-lib, we sometimes kept it in the script. The line, “she’s not that thin” when the gossips are talking about Marianne was an ad-lib by Jason O’Connell [Edward/Robert Ferras in the Bedlam production] that was just so funny we had to keep it in the show.
FT: What does it feel like to see productions of your adaptation around the country?
KH: It is incredibly humbling. I saw the Dallas Theater Center production a year ago and recently saw the Guthrie Theater production in Minneapolis. Every time I see it I look up at the stage and think, ‘Wow. I am watching a female oriented story: a story being told by women’, which feels great. Eric [Tucker] and I tend to work towards each other. He has such a brilliant mind and it is always a pleasure to watch his work so I am excited to see what he’s done at the Folger.
FT: What is your favorite Sense & Sensibility moment as a playwright watching the play?
KH: My favorite moment as a playwright is the scene where Elinor tells Edward about the living Colonel Brandon has offered him. Edward has been secretly engaged this whole time, and it is such a betrayal of Elinor and yet there is great love and compassion there. Edward comes into the room not knowing if Elinor is going to scream or cry or throw things at him or what. There is all this tension and yet they never talk about it. It feels like the most realistic moment in the play: when you are so in love with someone that you can’t actually talk to them. I get to watch that moment in New York from offstage and it breaks my heart every time.
FT: And your favorite moment as an actor playing Marianne?
KH: Definitely the storm where Marianne goes off to find Willoughby. It is so intense: she is almost suicidal and definitely self-destructive in that moment and lives through her whole character arc in a single scene. It is always very physical and I love seeing what directors do with it. In the New York production, I fall backwards off a table into another actor’s arms. I’m a little macho that way – I love doing scary things on stage and the whole scene is such a thrill to perform.
FT: What is coming up next for you and Sense & Sensibility?
KH: I’m working on a production of Vanity Fair at the Pearl Theatre in New York and Sense & Sensibility will continue to run in three theaters: the Guthrie, in New York, and at the Folger. I’m looking forward to closing out the show in New York as Marianne and I’m working on my adaptation of Pride & Prejudice which just had its first public reading.
Thank you to Kate Hamill for sharing her insights with us! Don’t miss your chance to see Sense & Sensibility on stage at the Folger and let us know your favorite moments in the comments! For tickets and more information, visit us online or call the Folger Box at 202.544.7077.