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‘Sense & Sensibility’ Play Offers ‘Something Different’

(Photos by Jessica Doss courtesy of The Attic Theatre)
Elinor Dashwood, Lucy Steele and Anne Steele, portrayed by Bethany Worrell, Lydia Doss and Rebecca Roy, engage in an awkward conversation about misdirected romance.

Bill Smith has always been a fan of Jane Austen’s classic stories.

Add that to his love for theater, and his experience locally as an actor and director.

So it’s easy to understand why he would want to bring Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” to the local community theater stage.

“Typically, I have directed mysteries or comedies and this was a great opportunity to try something different,” Smith said. “I was also drawn to Kate Hamill’s unique adaptation of the story,” said Smith, who is directing The Attic Theatre’s production of “Sense & Sensibility,” opening tonight and continuing through Saturday at The Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville. Tickets are still available.

“Most people think of Jane Austen as a romance writer, but she is much more. Austen’s dry wit is evident in this show. It’s more of a romance comedy than a drama,” he said.

“‘Sense and Sensibility’ not only makes people feel all the warm feelings, it makes you laugh,” Smith said.

“It is a unique adaptation by Kate Hamill. It’s unlike any version most have seen but with the same romance and humor. Reviews from other productions say that Jane Austen would be proud,” Smith said.

This theatrical version has a minimalist set and 42 scene changes. “The actors move in and out of scenes in front of you. Five of the actresses, called The Gossips, act as narrators, comedic relief and stage hands,” he said. “It is fast moving and unique, but also stays true to the Jane Austen beloved story.”

The cast consists of 22 actors from Hamilton, Madison, Boone and Marion counties, ranging in age from 14 to 60 years old. All have previous stage experience, and two of the Dashwood sisters are sisters in real life.

“All of the actors are doing an amazing job,” Smith said. “I am also blessed to have a superb assistant director. Millie Lawrence has brought a fresh perspective and hard work to this show and deserves much credit for its success.”

Set designer Seth Lawrence chose a minimalist set due to the multiple scene changes and unique movement of characters on the stage. Lawrence and the show’s assistant director, his wife, Millie, led a team of actors and stage crew in a set-building day at Ivy Tech. Then, the production crew was able to take Seth and Miller’s vision for the seat and build it and unload set pieces in about eight hours.

(Photos by Jessica Doss courtesy of The Attic Theatre)
Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood played by Joshua Minnich of Fishers and Bethany Worrell of Brownsburg, engage in a humorous conversation as Gossips, portrayed by Vada Bowen, Lebanon, and Edan Solverson, Carmel, listen in.

The show’s costume director, Vaden Bowen,  also an actor, and assistant costumer Amelia Denault “did a fantastic job,” he said, finding costumes from fellow theater groups and friends to assemble period dress-to-match 19th century England.

Smith said, “The costumes are colorful. From dresses and shoes for the women to jackets and boots for the men, it’s everything you would expect for a Janet Austen story. Our hair designer plays Fanny Dashwood, but has used her talents to make sure her fellow actors have hairstyles that match the time period.”

Smith, himself, first auditioned for a play as a freshman in high school about 45 years ago, he said, “with the promise from my speech teacher that I would receive extra credit just for trying out. Well, I was given a role in Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”

He said, “The bug bit, and now I’ve directed six shows and acted in many others.” His favorite roles to play have been Lawrence Wargrave in “And Then There Were None,” the childcatcher in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”

He said, directing “To Kill A Mockingbird” in my hometown, Elwood, was a special experience.”

Bill Smith

Earlier this year, he directed “The Mousetrap,” taking him back to his theater roots. He directed the show for Duck Creek Players, a community theater that he started two years ago. Duck Creek Players is a regional theater group based in Elwood. “I also serve on that board and am involved with most of its shows,” he said.

Why theater for Smith? “I love theater because I have seen lives changed from a well-told story. The Attic Theatre is a place where everyone is welcome and people are treated like family,” he said.

Smith was born and raised in Elwood, graduated from Elwood Community High School in 1980. He met his wife, Karen, on stage at Elwood High School, and they went on to have five children and 14 grandchildren.

Smith serves on several boards, including The Attic Theatre, which, he said, is now based in Hamilton County and performs all of its shows in the county.

“The Attic Theatre stages four to five shows per season, but they simply decided to stop traveling to other counties,” Smith said. The theater’s Shakespeare in the Park plays are at Coxhall Gardens in Carmel and other shows continue to be scheduled at Ivy Tech. “At this point, we have not reduced or stopped doing shows at Ivy Tech,” he said. “The new administration has set new rules for reserving the space. The biggest change being that we cannot reserve space more than 60 days in advance.”

Smith has worked as a chief of staff for two Indiana Congressman in Washington, D.C., and served as the executive director of an Indiana non profit organization and now owns a media production company in Indianapolis and a bed-and-breakfast and a shop in historic Metamora.

What makes Smith smile? “My greatest passion is God and family. My grandchildren make me smile and help keep me young in spirit. The study of history and involvement in the performing arts are my great interests.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.