Giveaway winner Announced for The Annotated Sense and Sensibility

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austenm edited by David M. Shapard (2011)37 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, edited by David Shapard. The winner drawn at random is Jocelyn who left a comment on May 28th.

Congratulations Jocelyn! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by June 21st, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments in the giveaway, and for all those participating in The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. This year we are reading Jane Austen’s first published novel Sense and Sensibility and books inspired by it as well as viewing many of the movies adaptation this year in honor of its 200th anniversary.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle – A Review

Cast of Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility 2011

“Happy, happy Elinor, you cannot have an idea of what I suffer.”

“Do you call me happy, Marianne? Ah; if you knew! And can you believe me to be so while I see you so wretched!”

– Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 29

Happiness and suffering, and the emotional extremes that cause it, is an important theme in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility that was well served in a new stage adaptation of her novel premiering at the Book-It Repertory Theatre on June 3rd at the Centre House Theatre, Seattle Center. It is the Rep’s fourth Austen novel to stage production after the highly successful Pride and Prejudice in 2004, Persuasion in 2008, and Emma in 2010. Their interpretations of Austen are always brisk, lighthearted and memorable. Jane Austen has been very good to the Rep, and obviously, audiences have felt that the Rep has been likewise to Jane Austen.

Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility (2011)Even though Sense and Sensibility is not as light, bright and sparkling as Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, it may be the most adaptable of her works for the stage. At 200 years old it remains a compelling tale touting a favorable list of dramatic attributes: dual heroines with divergent personalities; three red herring heroes who are really anti-heroes in disguise; and an incredible assortment of unscrupulous and humorous minor characters that add levity and balance to a story that is quite seriously entrenched in 19th century British inheritance laws and the plight of women who were ruled by them. Heady stuff for any playwright to embrace and adapt. Even more so for the lucky audience if they get it right.

The two heroines of this cautionary tale are Elinor (Kjerstine Anderson) and Marianne (Jessica Martin) Dashwood – one with too much sense, and the other with not enough. Each of the sisters reacts differently to their life tragedies and budding romances. Jessica Martin’s Marianne was all pure unbridled emotion: extreme, exuberant, exasperating! Never loving by halves, she gushed about dead leaves, poetry and her beaux Willoughby with a passion leaping into Bronteism.  Marianne also dips into the depths of despair after being thrown-over by her suitor, wearing her down and into a serious illness. We had wished this had been given more attention and that Marianne had not rebounded back to herself with such cheerful alacrity.

Kjerstine Anderson as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011)Kjerstine Anderson as the solid, staid and correct sister Elinor was surprisingly regal, imposing and privately snarky – a different interpretation than I had experienced in my reading of the novel, or in any of the movie adaptations. Questioning my previous conclusions, was Austen’s Elinor as introspective, subtle and guarded as I had thought? Anderson did a commendable job as Austen’s anchor of reason and rationality, albeit too emotionally at critical moments. I am uncertain if this change in characteristics was artistic license or by direction, but it altered the divergence in the sisters personalities and lessened some of Austen’s critical plot points.

Aaron Blakely as John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It  Rep (2011) x 200The three heroes (or anti-heroes): Edward Ferrars (Jason Marr), Col Brandon (David Quicksall) and John Willoughby (Aaron Blakely) were sensitively cast as the affable nerd, the gallant geezer and the charming cad to extreme satisfaction. Austen gave us an interesting assortment of suitors for our heroines. Often we are uncertain who the hero is because of major character flaws that act like red-herrings. In this interpretation (happily) Edward did not stutter, but he was so innocuous we wonder what Elinor saw in him. Really wonder! Marr was more than a bit of a milquetoast, and so was Quicksall as Col. Brandon who barely uttered a line for several scenes (to disconcerting effect) until he finally finds his voice making it all the more moving and admirable. Well done. When Blakely’s Willoughby gallantly arrives  to rescue the injured Marianne in a billowing greatcoat, our expectation of a Byronic hero was totally fulfilled. *swoon* The fact that he looked like a young Jonny Lee Miller did not hurt either. No wonder Marianne lost all sense. Who wouldn’t?  He was equally convincing in relaying his conflicted loyalties of money vs. love.

Jessica Martin and David Quicksall in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011) The minor characters in Austen’s tale are so endearingly flawed and humorous, supplying the comedy to offset the tragedy. Of note were the scheming and duplicitous Miss Lucy Steele (Angela DiMarco); selfish and manipulative Mrs. Dashwood (Emily Grogan) and her equally unappealing husband Mr. John Dashwood (Shawn Law); gossipy matchmaker Mrs. Jennings (Karen Nelson); and the jovial and obliging Sir John Middleton (Bill Johns). They brought levity to Jen Taylor’s energetic dramatization which at times had its charms and foibles. The narrative faithfully followed Austen’s own right down to some exact quotes. Huzzah! Gone though were Austen’s cynical underpinnings, subtle puns and measured pacing – all replaced by an emphasis on humor and breakneck speed. Scenes quickly altered with the draw of a curtain across the stage taking us from London to the country within seconds. Actors changed costumes by adding layers as they delivered lines on stage. Spoken dialogue shifted to narrative recited directly from the novel in one breath. It was exhausting and exhilarating. Austen encapsulated and accelerated for the modern stage.

We enjoyed every line and every moment, but we were happy to wind down afterwards with a cup of tea and the novel.

Jessica Martin and Kjerstine Anderson in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011)

Book-It’s Sense and Sensibility runs at the Center House Theater thru June 26th

Photos © Alan Alabastro 2011

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Preview of Sense and Sensibility Stage Play at Book-It Rep in Seattle

Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre (2011)

We are very fortunate to have one of the nation’s premiere small theater companies right in our own backyard. For the last 20 years the Book-It Repertory Theater of Seattle has been exclusively adapting written work for the stage. Among the sixty plus world premier adaptations they have presented are stage productions of three Jane Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice (2004), Persuasion (2008) and Emma (2010). Now in honor of the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility will premiere on Friday June 3, 2011 at the Center House Theatre.

In Austen’s first published novel (1811), the Dashwood sisters find that love is an unpredictable struggle against the most important social values: family, honor, and wealth.  As teens, Elinor and Marianne’s family fortunes take a turn when they lose their father, and their welcome in his home, now owned by their half-brother and his overbearing wife. With a move and a few chance meetings, Elinor falls for the intelligent and reserved Edward Ferrars, while Marianne dotes upon the handsome John Willoughby. Through Elinor’s sense and Marianne’s sensibility, this sprightly tale wends along the twisting path of love among the English gentry.

Directed by Makaela Pollock and playscript by Jen Taylor, of all of Jane Austen’s novels, Sense and Sensibility might prove to be the most adapatable. We are all anticipation of its high voltage emotional elements and endearingly flawed characters being brought to the stage. Just the thought of drama-queen Marianne Dashwood emoting in body and spirit sends shivers and chills, and the humor of the Middletons and the Misses Steeles should keep us laughing.

Marianne Dashwood (Jessica Martin) and Elinor Dashwood (Kjerstine Anderson) in Sense and Sensibility at Book-it Rep Seattle (2011)

Marianne (Jessica Martin) & Elinor (Kjerstine Anderson) Dashwood
in Book-It’s Sense and Sensibility

After attending their production of Persuasion in 2008, I am looking forward to experiencing Book-It’s unique style where the actors recite much of the text as it was originally written – but with the added benefit of costuming, lighting and the excitement of a live production. I will be attending on Sunday, June 12 with a group of Janeites so be sure to check back for my review.

  • Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle
  • May 25 – June 26, 2011
  • Pay-what-you-will previews: May 25, 26, 31
  • Subscriber Preview: June 2
  • Opening Night: Friday, June 3

2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Join Jane Austen Inside Her Novels at the Classroom Salon (via AustenBlog)

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (Penguine Classics) 2003Mags at AustenBlog shares news on a new beta website, Classroom Salon for Sense and Sensibility, by Carnegie Mellon University. The first lucky 50 Janeites to sign up get to participate, so make haste if you are interested in this innovative way to learn, share insights and discuss one of Jane Austen’s novels.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

We are pleased to announce that the Gentle Readers of AustenBlog, as well as Janeites everywhere, have been invited to join a discussion of Sense and Sensibility at Classroom Salon, a free discussion platform from Carnegie Mellon University. Using this tool, one may select any section of text, make comments, answer questions, and see and respond to the comments and questions. The Salon team at Carnegie Mellon is starting to post the text of Sense … Read More

via AustenBlog

From Prada to Nada – Jane Austen Goes South of the Border

Mark your calendars Jane Austen fans. From Prada to Nada opens in the US on January 28, 2011. Here is the official movie poster. The story might spark some memories. Two privileged young ladies from Beverly Hills are left penniless after the death of their father and must depend on the kindness of an estranged aunt in East Los Angeles for a new home and social connections. Sound familiar Jane Austen fans? Yep – you guessed it. Shades of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. Here’s the official studio synopsis:

It’s a whimsical fish-out-of-water story of two spoiled sisters: Nora (Camilla Belle), a law student, and Mary (Alexa Vega), an undergrad party girl, living with their father in a luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills. Mary has become so “90210” she refuses to admit she is of Mexican descent. When dad suddenly passes away, their posh lives are turned upside down. They discover they have been left penniless and are forced to move into their estranged aunt Aurelia’s (Adriana Barraza) modest but lively home in the Latino-centric Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA. They are terrified to leave their world of privilege; neither Nora nor Mary speak Spanish or have ever had to take on actual responsibility. The girls gradually adapt to their new environment; their BMW and Prius are traded for the public bus and a used car. As they embrace the culture that for so long they refused to accept, they both discover romance, the true meaning of family, and they learn that the life of PRADA actually means NADA without love, family and community.

Here is the official movie trailer. Directed by Angel Gracia, the cast looks fresh faced and perky. I am really looking forward to seeing it.

Sense and Sensibility (1971) – Movie Review

I was quite excited when the news hit the blogosphere that the elusive 1971 mini-series of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility was being resurrected from the vaults and reissued by the BBC. It originally aired in the UK, but had never jumped the pond until this re-issue. Now, I think I know why.

If you step back in time with me to the early days of the BBC and Masterpiece Theater television adaptations of literary classics and biographies you might recall such gems as The Six Wives of Henry VIII , Poldark or I Claudius. The scripts and actors were superior, but by today’s standards of movie making they appear a bit stage-playish and stilted. They are after all close to forty years old. If you can get past the slower pacing, video film recording quality and classically trained actors playing to the back row of a theater, they are well worth your entertainment time. This adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is from the same era, and suffers from some of the same stiffness and sluggish pacing. However, these faults could easily have been overlooked if the script had not been so severely altered from the original masterpiece. The plot line of Austen’s story remains, but unfortunately very, very little of her unique language is included. Newer adaptations by Emma Thompson in 1995 and Andrew Davies in 2008 do include Austen’s words, or a variation of them, and we have come to expect them.

Robin Ellis as Edward Ferrars and Joann David as Elinor Dashwood

Notwithstanding my frustrations with the dialogue, I did appreciate some of the performances, and laughed heartily over the costumes and hair styles. Here are some of the highlights:

The Yeas

Joanna David as Elinor Dashwood totally saved this production for me. Her solid and stoic Elinor is never overplayed, but totally understated and stealthily effective. Like Austen’s heroine she is a rock, an island of sanity in a social sphere populated with reprehensible characters used as a morality exercise to compare what should be proper behavior in the Georgian era and what is not. Besides being absolutely stunningly beautiful, her timing and delivery are spot on. It is easy for a reader or an audience to resent Elinor for pulling in the reigns of her family and her own heart, but I never once doubted Ms David’s characters choices. Bravo!

Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings may be my favorite film interpretation of the character so far. In this instance playing to the back row really works as her character is way over-the-top and exaggerated just as Austen intended. Aptly, Routledge’s clothes are as outlandish as her personality; she waves her arms about like a conductor of a comic opera and spouts her errant romantic deductions and matchmaking schemes with her unmistakably unique sign-song voice with aplomb. Her performance alone is well worth the 3 hours of blunders.

The Nays

Robin Ellis as Edward Ferrars. This Edward has a bouffant hairdo and stutters through his lines. This character trait is not in Austen’s novel (that I can remember) and may have been added as an emphasis to show that he was truly not suited for making speaches in Parliment, the profession that his mother aspires for him. We also saw slight stuttering by Hugh Grant in the 1995 production. Is this a trend? Unfortunately, I never felt any chemistry between this Edward and Elinor which made their romance rather flat. This was a big disappointment, since the proposal scene in both the 1995 and 2008 adaptations actually were the highlight of the films for me and amazingly an improvement on the original novel. Honestly, I can’t think of anything positive to say about this Edward beyond the fact that he was an eligible bachelor and he married above himself.

Ciaran Madden as Marianne Dashwood. Oh my! This is a love hate reaction to this interpretation of Austen’s most dramatic of heroines. This Marianne was a frenzied mess, down right selfish and does not care one fig about her family. She whines a lot, throws away anyone else’s opinions like dead flowers and comes off like a spoiled brat. When she finds Willoughby at the Ball in London with a new paramour she is a mad woman, yelling and flailing about. It reminded me of the mad scene in Donizetti’s tragic opera Lucia di Lammermoor. Hard to know if this was the director’s choice of character interpretation or the actress’. Either way they missed the point and she out weighed the balance of the sense vs. sensibility dichotomy of the two sisters. Marianne’s descent into despair is engaging, in a “sick and wicked” sort of way, and is hard to not watch with some amazement, but you are duly forewarned.

Marianne di Lammermoor’s mad scene!

The costumes and hair: pictures can say so much more than I, so take a gander. Beyond the non-period bouffant hairdos for both women and men, the matching pelisses for Elinor and Marianne really made me roar with laughter.

 Chartreuse and pink twin pelisses!

The hair Louisa!

Clive Francis as Mr. Willoughby. Swoonable?

Milton Johns as John Dashwood, truly a weasel!

Kay Gallie as Fanny Dashwood, skinflint!

Image from Sense and Sensibility 1971: Richard Owens as Col. BrandonImage © BBC Warner 2009

Richard Owens as Col. Brandon, unrequited until the end!

Image from Sense and Sensibility 1971: Isabel Dean as Mrs. Dashwood and Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings © BBC Warner 2009

Isabel Dean as Mrs Dashwood with Patricia Routledge as Mrs Jennings

If I seem a bit cynical about this production, please take it with a grain of salt. Firstly, I had heard tale of its charms for decades. Overall it is amusing in an historical perspective sort of way, but it was not what I was expecting and did not do justice to Austen’s plot or characters. Secondly, I am glad that it is now available and that I have experienced it. My curiosity duly quenched, I can now return it to NetFlix after three months of struggling through it in small doses. In conclusion, this Sense and Sensibility does show us how far historical drama has evolved in forty years, but sadly reminds us how far we have to go in perfecting interpretations of Austen’s prose on screen.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Sense and Sensibility (1971)
Directed by David Giles
Screenplay by Denis Constanduros
Distributed by BBC Warner, (2009)
DVD, 178 minutes
ASIN: B002DY9KR0

Images courtesy © BBC Warner 2009

Happy Birthday Sense and Sensibility

Title page of first edition of Sense and Sensibility (1811)On this day in 1811, an advertisement for the novel Sense and Sensibility “By A Lady” appeared in the London newspaper The Star no. 7690. This was Jane Austen’s first published work and her entre into literary history. 

Published by Thomas Egerton of the Military Library publishing house in London, it was priced at 15s and printed in three volumes. It was printed at the author’s expense. She also owed a commission to the publisher on sales. Her gamble paid off as all 750 copies sold by July 1813. She made a profit of £140 on the first edition which is about £4,754.40 in today’s currency. A second edition was advertised in October 1813. This year, a first edition of Sense and Sensibility sold at auction for £38,000. Quite a tidy sum indeed. 

*Jane Austen, a family record, by Deirdre Le Fay

Sense and Sensibility: Marianne Dashwood – blushing maiden or feminist?

Closeup of an Illustration by C.E. Brock, Sense and Sensibility, J.M. Dent & Sons, London (1908)Mrs. Jennings was a widow, with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but marry all the rest of the world. In the promotion of this object, she was zealously active, as far as her ability reached, and missed no opportunity of projecting weddings among all the young people of her acquaintance. She was remarkably quick in the discovery of attachments, and had enjoyed the advantage of raising the blushes and the vanity of many a young lady by insinuations of her power over such a young man; and this kind of discernment enabled her soon after her arrival at Barton decisively to pronounce that Colonel Brandon was very much in love with Marianne Dashwood. She rather suspected it to be so, on the very first evening of their being together, from his listening so attentively while she sang to them; and when the visit was returned by the Middletons dining at the cottage, the fact was ascertained by his listening to her again. It must be so. She was perfectly convinced of it. It would be an excellent match, for he was rich and she was handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her connection with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge; and she was always anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl. The Narrator, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 8 

This 1908 watercolor illustration by Charles E. Brock of Mrs. Jennings making Marianne Dashwood blush has always seemed contrary to my vision of her true personality. If she is indeed blushing, it is not from embarrassment of Mrs. Jennings matchmaking, but from aggravation. She is just too much of a lady to look her in the eye and tell her where to go. 

I may be transferring my 21st century sensibilities into the stew, but I have always thought of Marianne as a bit of feminist. She could easily have been a suffragette in the 1890’s or burned her bra in the 1960’s and been proud of it. Her mother and sister Elinor may not approve of her objections to Mrs. Jennings well intended conclusion that she and Colonel Brandon are an excellent match because “he is rich and she is handsome”, but hello, she is 16 and he is 35! I agree with her concerns. He is over the hill in her young romantic idealistic eyes. Jane Austen is of course driving the point through her family that she has no money and should be grateful for such an alliance. Marianne wants love, not a marriage of convenience, a theme that runs through each of Austen’s novels, and her own life. 

In the end, her pursuit of love over social stricture breaks her of her spirit – her romantic ideals. After Willoughby’s rejection, she succumbs to the socially appropriate match – Colonel Brandon. Her sister Elinor who always acted within propriety lucks out and is rewarded by marrying the man that she loves. We are happy for her, but not for Marianne who wanted more and settled for less. If Sense and Sensibility was intended as a moral fable for young ladies lacking sensibility, social sense is also a cruel task master.

*Illustrastion by Charles E. Brock, Sense and Sensibility, J.M. Dent & Sons, London (1908)

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