Interviews with Director Kim Shively, Costume Designer Caitlin Duncan, and Set and Props Designer Natalie Hart.
1. What was your vision for this production? Director Kim Shively: "My vision for this production was to tell this story about sisters; and how they negotiate coming into womanhood with loss, change, and expectation. I think telling stories about sisters is really beautiful: the challenges they come into and the conflict that they have, and how their temperaments affect other people. When choosing Sense and Sensibility, I was talking to Dr. Shawyer and we were thinking about those dynamic relationships and telling it through the female gaze, rather than what we’re normally used to, and giving students that opportunity as well."
Costume Designer Caitlin Duncan: "My design concept centers on a continuum between characters who value sense in their decision-making or characters that allow their sensibilities to rule. Characters who are more rooted in the realities of life are in cooler tones [...] Characters who allow their feelings to rule are in warmer tones [...] I also utilized heavy patterning on garments for characters who have more gossip following through their life. [...] My design seeks to answer the question, What if each character fully presented who they truly are without the capabilities of masking their truest self under the respectable poise of this time?" Set and Props Designer Natalie Hart: "This production is primarily influenced by the need for movement. Many scenes are short and flow quickly with the help of the Gossip characters. When looking at Regency interiors, so much seems stable and permanent. This play asks us to explode that view and infuse Regency style on moving targets. So my approach was to facilitate the movement first with the rolling pieces that the director wanted to use and secondly, to find places in and around those pieces to tell the Regency story with broad strokes."
2. Why do you think telling this story is important for today's audiences? Director Kim Shively: "I think we have pieces of these characters in all of us. That’s why we wanted the fluid casting. I think we are all Mrs. Jennings, Elinor, Colonel Brandon, Marianne, and Willoughby. I think we all live with dimensions of these characters in us and I wanted to direct something that people really connect to and see themselves in."
Costume Designer Caitlin Duncan: "I believe that Sense and Sensibility is important for today's audiences because it challenges us to consider where we fall personally in the spectrum of sense to sensibility. I think that all audience members can learn a little from both Marianne and Elinor. I personally am typically someone who relies on strict facts in decision-making, and after seeing the show I realized that like Elinor, I could use a little more emotion in my decision-making. [...] I believe that every audience member will find a bit of themselves in the story."
Set and Props Designer Natalie Hart: "I always find it interesting to examine women’s lives throughout history. We often focus historical learning on kings, popes, generals, and nobility. That leaves out what the lives of most of the people were like and it tends to erase excellence and achievements made by women, people of color, and other people historically excluded from being considered “important.” Jane Austen takes us into the worlds of women of the gentry during the Regency while reflecting the pressures and foibles of their society. While we are apt to tell ourselves, “Glad we don’t live in a society like that anymore!”, Kate Hamill’s reinterpretation asks us to take another look."
3. Where did you draw the most inspiration from? Director Kim Shively: "Life! This is really one of those pieces that’s all about relationships. I think there’s something really attractive about women who have lost their anchor and watching them find their way… and I think they find their way through each other. In a society where everything is about securing yourself a husband, they actually find their answer in their relationships with one another." Costume Designer Caitlin Duncan: "The majority of my design inspiration came from 18th-century fashion plates. Fashion plates are historical images that depict women and men in the current high fashion trends of the time. I found these plates to be incredibly useful in rooting my design in the period [...]. [...]I believe one challenge of a period piece is to discern fashion trends of the era and decide how to depict them to a current audience eye. Drawing inspiration from the fashion plates kept me historically accurate but allowed me to establish my own design style [...]."
Set and Props Designer Natalie Hart: "I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and of British history, so most of my research came from historical sources. For the scenery, I looked at Regency architecture and decorative arts. I went deeper into research for the paintings and letters. I researched what sort of paper would be available and how it was made. I looked at how letters were folded and sealed. I researched what sort of art supplies were common and what subjects women tended to paint. [...] So, my inspiration for this play is really about telling the story of these characters as truthfully as I can with the objects and aesthetics that would be in their world, but then to interpret it all in a way that dramatizes the movement and pace for the audience."