Two hundred years after the literary icon Jane Austen walked the streets of Hampshire, England, her writings are still beloved. And this weekend, O’Fallon Township High School students will be helping keep her work alive.
OTHS will present an adapted version of one of Austen’s famous works “Sense and Sensibility” in the Milburn Auditorium.
The production is hosted by Jennifer John Bickel and Eve Knipp, director, and is adapted in The Book-It Style by Jennifer Lee Taylor.
In “Sense and Sensibility,” there are the Dashwood sisters: Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, whose happy lives are dramatically changed when their father dies. Their home is taken by their half-brother, John, and his overbearing wife, Fanny, and they must learn to live on much less far away from all they’re used to. Despite misfortunes, when the oldest, and most prone to reason, Elinor falls in love for the Edward Ferrars, an equally cautious individual. Marianne’s flighty sensibilities are overwhelmed by the neighbor John Willoughby, who is handsome and reckless by social reputation. The story revolves around the sisters and the lessons they all must learn together.
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Knipp said the show “is going to be amazing with all the talented students involved.”
There are 31 student cast members and about 20 behind-the-scenes crew.
Ryn Sanders, a senior who has been performing in OTHS productions since her freshman year, personifies Elinor, the protagonist.
“I definitely love the part of Elinor. It’s kinda of a challenge, because I usually play the very dramatics, but in this production, Elinor is basically the ‘sensibility’ out of ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ So she is very calm and collected and doesn’t really break emotion — well, twice, but it’s the very end of the play,” Sanders said.
For those who may not know much about Austen or her work, Sanders said, “It’s about love and the turmoil.”
“Love is something that has a lot of problems, and the Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor, definitely have to encounter those problems through out the show. They go through life together, kind of in a short amount of time, trying to act responsibly and act like ladies while still dealing with their own emotions,” Sanders said.
Bennett English, a junior depicting Col. Brandon, is no stranger to the stage. He has been in multiple OTHS theater and musical productions. He is also currently the title character in the Illinois State High School Theatre Festival of “Big Fish.”
“It is like no other that I’ve ever played. It’s very different, because I’m so used to outgoing or comedic roles, but these characters are so subtle and feel so reserved, through many, but not all of the moments in the show,” English said.
English said he hopes to draw in a mix of audience members, because he of all knows that at first glance some may not think it’s their type of show, but he said, “once you open up to it — it’s just so awesome.”
“Lots of rehearsal went into this just getting all the lines. They’re so hard to get down, and it’s just such a beautiful show once you put your heart into it and you really try to understand what they are saying between the lines,” English said.
Charlie Moore, a senior will be acting as Edward Ferrars.
“I’ve learned a lot working on this play, like about the cultural aspects from 1810-1811, with like, the way they talked or dressed, or the bowing when you enter a room, no matter who is in it — it’s about respect and chivalry,” Moore said.
Up and away
Knipp said this is the first time one of the productions at Milburn won’t have blackouts in between scenes.
“We don’t have an official walls for our set. We are flying everything in and out, like window pieces and archways. So the scenes are going to be continuous,” Knipp said.
The first and only blackout will be during intermission, Knipp said.
“I think it allows the actors to have more continuity, so everything just flows. But it’s a little more challenging for the crew members, because they may only have three lines to change an entire space,” Knipp said.
“We’re lucky that we have a school that has a facility to do that. Most of the community theaters here you don’t have flies and batten systems, so you can’t do that,” said assistant director Bruce Bowman.
Nikki Witty, OTHS art director, and her students painted a circular marble floor to the stage. It adds a “great touch,” Knipp said.
Terry Pattison, designed and created all of the costumes for the show. She’s also the spring musical art director.
“I love it. Eve and I have worked together for about 10 years now on productions. I work with a lot of community theaters, like COCA in St. Louis, Mo., and other local schools, too,” Pattison said, who is also an art teacher at O’Fallon First Baptist Academy.
The show will begin at 7 p.m each night, Thursday, Nov. 2 through Saturday, Nov. 4 at the auditorium at the OTHS Milburn campus, 650 Milburn School Road in O’Fallon.
At a glance
What: O’Fallon Township High School fall production of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”
When: 7 p.m., Nov. 2-4
Where: Milburn Auditorium