Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Sense and Sensibility, is currently onstage at People’s Light. This story is about two sister, Marianne and Elinor, who are left penniless after their father’s death. They eventually take up residence in a cottage on a distant relative’s property. It is here that Marianne and Elinor, pursue life and experience romance and heartbreak.
I had the opportunity to speak with Claire Inie-Richards who portrays Marianne in this production. She spoke with me about playing such a well-known character as well as what people can expect when they come see the show.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about Sense and Sensibility?
Claire Inie-Richards: Sense and Sensibility is based on the classic Jane Austen novel. The play is about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who originally come from privilege. However, after their father’s death they are left to reduced circumstances. Marianne and Elinor meet these men, while they are also dealing with obstacles in which these two sisters encounter heartbreak and romance. In addition, the play is about Elinor and Marianne finding their way in the world after the loss of their father. Elinor is the practical sister, and Marianne is the romantic and idealistic sister. When it comes to the relationships in the sisters’ lives, Elinor is more cautious and Marianne is impulsive.
Kelli Curtin: Jane Austen writes in her novel Sense and Sensibility, “[Marianne] was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation." Do you feel it is important to have audiences connect with Marianne and have them feel empathy for this character?
Claire Inie-Richards: Yes, as a performer, I always want the audience to connect with the characters I portray. It is important for me to have the audiences become invested in the journey of any character I play, and to make sure members of the audience understand Marianne. I want them to fully become aware of why she reacts to certain situations in particular ways. I hope I bring that forth to the audience when they see this show.
Kelli Curtin: Since this is a Regional Premiere of Sense and Sensibility what can people expect from the show?
Claire Inie-Richards: This adaptation in unique because it is live on stage, as well, the show is in constant movement. Immediately the audience will be invested in the story of Sense and Sensibility. Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan, who wrote the show, did an amazing job; the story moves along very quickly and the audience is immediately immersed in the worlds of Marianne and Elinor. There is so much to see in the show, and it takes the audience on a journey. There is never a dull moment in this production, and Sense and Sensibility will sweep the audience into the story and time will fly by. As a performer, I love doing this piece, especially knowing how immersed the audience will be in the story.
Kelli Curtin: Are there any characteristics of Marianne you can relate to?
Claire Inie-Richards: Yes, absolutely. The first thing that comes to mind is that Marianne says things before she has a chance to think them through. I can definitely relate to that. Also, we both have very strong opinions and vocalize those opinions.
Kelli Curtin: How do you prepare for a role like this, especially since Marianne is such a well-known character due to the popularity of Jane Austen’s novels?
Claire Inie-Richards: The thing about playing someone like Marianne is that this character is so widely known, and people have so many opinions about her and they feel close to this character. I can relate to the temperament of Marianne, so it was easy to become the character since I easily could find the truth in her. Marianne is outspoken and there are moments when what she says comes across as disrespectful for the time. In those moments it is important for me to find out what drives this character and find the heart behind Marianne’s actions.
Kelli Curtin: Do you have a favorite scene in Sense and Sensibility?
Claire Inie-Richards: I really love the later scenes with Colonel Brandon (who is played by Grant Goodman.) There is a scene close to the end where Marianne falls ill and Colonel Brandon reads poetry to her. It is the first time Marianne is grounded and honest. It is also the first time she sees goodness in Brandon and audiences will see their friendship begin to blossom. It is a beautiful moment in the show.
Kelli Curtin: Austin’s Sense and Sensibility is still popular 200 years later. What is it about this story that still resonates today?
Claire Inie-Richards: There is a diversity of the two main characters, Elinor and Marianne, and everyone can identify with some characteristics of either of the sisters. People can identify with characteristics such has being practical, expressing opinions about something we are passionate about before we think about what we are saying, and feeling something so deeply that it consumes us – these are all things we have experienced in our lives at one time or another. This story was written two hundred years ago, and people still relate to the characters. People will relate to the longing and the striving of the characters, and it is rewarding to hear the reaction of the audience, and understand that they are connecting with the two sisters.
Kelli Curtin: What are the benefits and challenges of bringing this beloved story to life on a stage?
Claire Inie-Richards: One of the benefits is that anyone who knows the story of Sense and Sensibility wish to be able to experience the story and physically see these characters come to life. It is a joy to be able to take the words of Jane Austen off a page and make it visual. One of the challenges though is trying to keep the story alive onstage, and making sure the beauty of the story does not get lost in the logistics. That is more of an issue for the writers in that the story comes forth in the script. It is important to make sure that audiences are reminded of why they love the story of Sense and Sensibility, and it is our job to bring Austen’s words to life.
Kelli Curtin: How did you become interested in performing?
Claire Inie-Richards: I went to the Waldorf School, and beginning in second grade every class does a play. That was my first experience. I really did not pursue acting until I was about eleven years old, and I became involved at Summer Stage at People’s Light. Eventually I did my first professional stage production at People’s Light, The Crucible. This production of Sense and Sensibility marks my ten year anniversary doing shows at People’s Light.
Kelli Curtin: Why, in your opinion, is live theatre important?
Claire Inie-Richards: Personally, I am partial to live theatre, it is my first love. However, the nature of live theatre is fleeting. It cannot be commercialized and it cannot be mass distributed like so many other art forms. It is an experience like no other where people sit together in a room and experience something collectively. In today’s world where we are connected all the time digitally, it is a unique experience to be able to turn everything else off and just be present. Live theatre gives us a communal presence which we severely lack.
Claire Inie-Richards can be seen in Sense and Sensibility at People’s Light through March 20, 2016. For more information and tickets visit their website at peopleslight.org or call their box office at 610-644-3500.
Photos courtesy of People’s Light. Photo credit: Mark Garvin.
Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she is a contributor for the online site broadwayworld.com. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.