Theater brings ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to life

Veronica Novotny

Assistant Editor

“To me, the show really speaks about a balance, finding a balance in life between, as the title says, the sense and the sensibility,” said junior Ilona Ludanyi, who plays Marianne Dashwood in Franciscan University of Steubenville’s spring production of “Sense and Sensibility.”

Kate Hamill’s stage adaption of the novel by Jane Austen was chosen by Director Monica Anderson, who holds a doctorate in theater and is directing her first production since “The Visit” in fall 2019.

“I’ve wanted to direct this show since I saw its original New York production directed by a friend of mine, Eric Tucker,” said Anderson. “I was struck by how delightfully playful Kate Hamill’s adaptation is while retaining the heart of Austen’s novel. It’s been a fun challenge to find our own approach to the script.”

Anderson provides the cohesive vision of the production, while each of the show’s 13 actors approaches the script from the perspective of their own character, said senior Gemma Amrein, stage manager and technical director.

Ludanyi said, “The two main characters are both very extreme in one aspect or another. Through their struggles in love, they discover that they need to find a balance and appreciate in each other the strong points and the weak points in their characters.”

Senior Autumn Phillips, who plays Elinor Dashwood, said the show’s themes include “understanding your own strengths and weaknesses in love and sisterly bonds … (and) being able to look at your own weaknesses and drawbacks.”

“I love Elinor,” said Phillips. “She’s so practical minded and very sensible. Sense is her number one driving force, as per the title of the show. She wants to do everything that she can to do the right thing and to maintain calm and dutiful.”

Because she values reason, Elinor discourages Marianne’s excessive display of emotions, but inside, Elinor is just as emotional.

“She’s so fun to play because she does have this air of ‘very put together’ but inside she is very much in pain for a lot of the show and she refuses to show it,” Phillips said. “She won’t talk about her heartbreak to anyone because she feels like that is almost too silly. … She’s super relatable (because) to everyone else she looks like she has everything put together — and she’s just kind of mess.”

Amrein said, “Sisterly bonds is a big (theme) … and keeping a practical view on the world and other people.”

“It’s a really, really fun show, it’s really energetic,” Ludanyi said. “There’s a lot of moving parts so it’s a very fun show to rehearse and to work on. It’s been a little weird with COVID, but it’s been going really well for the most part.”

The cast is back to its pre-COVID schedule of rehearsing every Monday through Thursday.

“Sense and Sensibility” will be the first performance in Anathan Theater since November 2019.

Performances will be held April 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. and April 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. in Anathan Theater, located on the ground floor of Egan Hall. There are 66 seats available in the house as well as 16 seats on stage, since “Sense and Sensibility” is being played in the round.

“It’s definitely really interesting when we do things in the round,” Amrein said. “There’s very minimal set. All of the set changes are done by the cast.”

First priority for in-person seating goes to the families of the cast members, and then tickets will be made available to the public, Amrein said.

In addition to distanced seating in the theater, the communication arts department is providing a live stream of the performances. David Schaefer, who holds a doctorate in communications, is assisted by seniors Evan Shoup and Jacob Spheeris in organizing the live stream and setting up microphones and three camera angles.

“(The show) will still be able to be enjoyed by a wide range of people everywhere, especially for the families who can’t make it,” Amrein said.

Anderson said, “I regret we will have to keep our audiences small within the theater but hope that many will take advantage of the live stream option.”

More information on tickets and the live stream will be available leading up to the performances.

“Storytelling in general, I think, is so important and somewhat overlooked when we think about theater and the arts. All in all, what we’re trying to do is tell good stories,” Phillips said. “If you like (the show) ‘Bridgerton,’ you’ll like this.”