Actors from Springfield Contemporary Theatre rehearse for "Sense and Sensibility." (Photo: Springfield Contemporary Theatre)

Springfield Contemporary Theatre is putting a couple of new spins on old traditions with its production of “Sense and Sensibility.”

The show runs May 6-22 at the Springfield Art Museum. This is the southwest Missouri premiere for Kate Hamill’s adaption of the classic Jane Austen novel published in 1811. Hamill was a member of the New York experimental theatre company Bedlam.

“(Hamill) showed it to founder and artistic director Eric Tucker, and it was first produced in 2014,” said Bob Bradley, director of SCT’s production. “It became its most successful production ever and has been remounted several times since then and toured to other major cities.”

“Sense and Sensibility” follows the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, after their father’s sudden death.

“Set in gossipy late 18th Century England, with a fresh female voice, the play is full of humor, emotional depth and bold theatricality,” said a press release from Springfield Contemporary Theatre (SCT). “‘Sense and Sensibility’ examines our reactions, both reasonable and ridiculous, to societal pressures. When reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart?”

The cast of “Sense and Sensibility” includes southwest Missouri performers Holly Anne Black, Kathy Busch, Frank Connelly, Sandy Leigh Johnson, Judy Luxton, Larry Peterson, Isobel Ramsey, Matt Reed, Fiona Ross, Ron Seney and Michael Watterson.

SCT is also putting a new spin on its tradition of having audiences onstage and up close to the performers. The intimate environment it creates is similar to SCT’s previous venue in downtown Springfield.

“(The) audience and performance space will all be on the stage,” Bradley said. “This will create an immediacy and a reduction of distance between the two. Longtime patrons of SCT will feel right at home as this arrangement is fairly close to the one experienced in the Pershing Street venue.”

This staging also rings true to the origins of this Austen adaptation. 

“The Bedlam Theater Company was created in 2012 by Eric Tucker with a mission to create productions that brought an immediacy to the relationship between actor and audience through minimal theatre trappings collapsing the distance between them,” Bradley said. “Jane Austen furnished the story, characters, wit and satire. Kate Hamill wrote the words for the dialog. She has also created characters called Gossips who speak dialog that catches the spirit and satire of the novel. Bedlam Theatre Company created the template for the mounting of Hamill’s adaptation. Springfield Contemporary Theatre is not attempting to reproduce Bedlam’s production. The brushstrokes belong to the local actors and artistic team.

“With apologies to BBC and PBS, this production is a long way off from ‘Masterpiece Theatre.’”

SCT encourages audiences to buy their tickets in advance, as the onstage arrangement limits the number of seats available. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays.

Want to go?

“Sense and Sensibility” at Springfield Contemporary Theatre

Dates: May 6-22

Show times: 7 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $10-$29, Thursday shows are “Pay what you can”

Location: Springfield Art Museum, 1111 East Brookside Dr.

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger