Little Women, Mansfield Park
I have two world premieres coming up in 2018: Little Women and Mansfield Park.
1.) Little Women (premiered Sept 2018 at the Jungle, dir. Sarah Rasmussen) and coming to Primary Stages (May 2019, dir. Sarna Lapine).
First reviews for Little Women’s Minneapolis run are coming in…!
“Smart… subversive… Kate Hamill’s fascinating new adaptation… is so true to the story’s spirit while alive to the present day that it feels as sharp as a file hidden in a cake. No playwright could bring the sprawling novel to the stage without significant abbreviation, but Hamill has gone a step further and created what amounts to a remix… Hamill captures those “little women’s” essences so precisely that the world created by director Sarah Rasmussen will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the book… This play is amazing.” - City Pages
“Bold… provocative… a distinctly modern spin… What pronouns would Jo March, the protagonist of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, have preferred? The premise of [this] Little Women is that if folks back then had known that gender is nonbinary, the imaginative and obstreperous Jo would have landed somewhere in the middle of the continuum… this is not your grandmother’s Little Women — nor, the show is saying, could it be. In this Little Women… the past is accounted for, but we’re more interested in how the story feels now.” - StarTribune
“If this is the way that Kate Hamill interprets all old things into new things I want her to take everything i had to read in English class and turn it anew, because I feel like she’s got it on the nose. This isn’t a reworking - this is a revitalization of the text.” - MPR
“Little Women makes a big impression… Manages to feel both familiar and new… takes us to an old destination via a new path, we see different things along the journey than we may have before… refreshes the tale in an interesting way. Its ‘little’ story still has large power.” - Pioneer Press
“This lively adaptation, featuring a wonderful and diverse cast, is sweet and heart-warming, staying true to the source but casting the story in a more modern and relevant light. This adaptation puts more emphasis on the strict gender roles of the time… and the way that Jo, and even Laurie, don't fit in them. This would be a great play to bring kids to, but it's entertaining for people of all ages - fresh and fun and heartfelt. It's a… story about family and individuality, and the struggle between those two, as well as finding your voice and finding your place in the world.” - Cherry and Spoon
“…the show is as heartfelt and inspirational as its source material… Rasmussen, in discussing why they chose Little Women, said that it afforded the Jungle the opportunity to present something new and exciting that holds aloft Alcott’s original themes. Hamill’s adaptation does this exceptionally well but also finds a way to make a story about women in the middle 1800’s living at a time when the nation was divided relatable to the challenges of today… Little Women is filled with emotion, love, loss and will take your heartstrings captive within the first few scenes, only to finally release them at the final curtain.” - HowWastheShow
2.) Mansfield Park (premiering November 2018 at Northlight Theater, dir. Stuart Carden)
Mansfield Park, my third Austen adaptation, has just had its world premiere! Read more about Mansfield Park here.
Jeff Award Recommended.
“Highly recommended. Finds the radicalism in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park… Hamill (who also plays three roles in the production) keeps Austen's characters, and her basic plot, more or less intact—Fanny remains steadfast and true, despite all distractions and temptations to do otherwise. But Hamill heightens the drama. Fanny's aunt Lady Bertram, for instance, is revealed to be an opium addict, and the story's sexual undercurrents are much more obvious onstage than in the book. As is the most controversial element of the novel, the fact that the magnificent Mansfield Park was paid for with profits from the slave trade in the Caribbean. There is a passing reference to this in Austen's novel, but Hamill makes it a major focus of her adaptation. Hamill's changes may shock purists, but they provide a welcome respite for those of us who get a little irritated by the bubble of privilege Austen's characters frolic in. Stuart Carden's energetic production unfolds gracefully, thanks in no small part to his excellent cast.” - Chicago Reader
“A sparkling reminder of why Jane Austen endures. Watching Northlight Theatre’s luminous world premiere stage version of Mansfield Park, it was impossible not to wonder what the writer might make of her enduring cult status among 21st century audiences…. So much has changed in terms of the status of women since she penned the novel. But human nature has remained the same. And Austen’s acute observations on social class, romantic attraction, marriage, family, ethical versus pragmatic choices, self-destructive behavior, hypocrisy and the importance of self-knowledge continue to ring true. So does her wit and sarcasm, and the pre-Dickensian quality of her brilliantly limned characters. In addition, and unique to this particular work, there is Austen’s understanding of the pernicious wealth built on slavery. The new production now at Northlight is the fleet work of actress and playwright/adapter Kate Hamill, who previously devised plays based on Austen’s other great novels – “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility” – and who here plays several roles. And under the razor-sharp, fast-paced direction of Stuart Carden, a superb cast and design team do the rest to set it all in motion… you must see the show and enjoy the uniformly superb cast. Highly Recommended.” - WTTW
“What is the price of passivity?… Fanny Price isn't allowed to say no. From childhood, when she's taken from her squalid home and placed with relatives at a massive country estate, she must talk, walk and dress like the rich…. When it comes time for Fanny to make real choices, does she draw on her carefully guarded morality or continue to be a well-dressed doormat? Acclaimed playwright Kate Hamill brings this world premiere adaptation to Northlight Theatre, and also acts in the production as Fanny's foil, gossipy socialite Mary Crawford…. Hamill's script coupled with Stuart Carden's direction eclipses the simple delights and biting social commentary of Austen's writing, updating certain aspects of the story while remaining true… Hamill’s love of Austen is apparent in every hushed lovers' conversation and piece of witty banter. What sets Hamill apart from other Austen adaptors is her ability to go one step further, setting a feminist tone that the author would likely love. Hamill's Mansfield Park further explores every woman's limited ability to say "no" in polite society, as well as the dark secrets behind most every wealthy family. Someone has to pay for those large houses and pretty clothes, after all…. As always, Northlight attracts actors who are the best of the best. Hamill's Mary is a standout…. Northlight's Mansfield Park is well worth the trip to Skokie: lush, gorgeous and surprisingly thought-provoking .” - Windy City Times
“This latest play by Kate Hamill follows her previous successes…. With a sudden shift in posture and the addition of a costume piece, Kate Hamill completely transforms, often onstage before our eyes, from Lady Bertram to Mary Crawford, as well as a minor character, Chapman. This is what makes her new play so exciting and fascinating. With the exception of the two main characters, the other six actors must quickly shift between portraying two or more different roles… Because the Empire English author dared to raise an eyebrow over families who made their fortunes in the slave trade, this story has been called controversial. Fanny Price, especially in Ms. Hamill’s play, is as contemporary a heroine as any of Austen’s characters. She’ll be remembered, long after the final curtain, for her modern outlook, her gumption to speak her mind and her determination to win the heart of a mate who’s her intellectual and emotional equal.” - Chicago Theater Review
“Kate Hamill’s world premiere stage version of “Mansfield Park,” brings Austen’s 1814 novel to life with flair and non-traditional casting… Playwright Kate Hamill, who has successfully adapted Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice” for the stage, is in top form here, with a fluid and passionate narrative that runs just over two hours. She also appears in two roles and demonstrates she is as fine an actress as she is a playwright…” - Buzz
“first rate… Fanny defies the social code of the time, at least in Austen novels, in which the triumphant female captures the brass ring, a man of wealth and social standing. In Austen’s world, that counts for a happy ending. But Fanny refuses to settle for a soulless life of money and social position. She ultimately achieves love and marriage with a man, poor but compatible with her sense of decency… Henry Crawford and Mary Crawford are played with delicious cynicism by Nate Burger and Kate Hamill (the playwright, but a superb actress). Fine staging and outstanding acting… Austen remains a master worth any theatergoer’s time.” - Chicago Land
“It is a play about love and class divisions. And Hamill, who does take liberties with the plot of the novel, makes the most of both of these elements… The great problem with the great house is that it is built on a foundation of slave trade money, a dark family secret that Fanny discovers. So there are multiple moral conundrums here: can she remain in a house such as this one? Should anyone who has morals?… Mary has enough personal contradictions that she remains fascinating and somewhat unfathomable, thanks to a layered performance by Hamill. Hamill has made far more here of the slaving aspect of the story than Austen did in her novel… As a lifelong Austen fan, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Mansfield Park may not be the most enjoyable place to grow up, but it certainly is a good way to spend a chilly evening.” - Chicago Onstage
“This is a story that goes deep into the hearts and souls of the wealthy versus the poor… As we meet all the characters, and as Fanny learns more about each, she begins to see that wealth and status are not always what they seem to be…. including her aunt, Lady Bertram ( deftly handled by playwright Hamill with two other roles- she is something else!), and Mary (played to perfection by Hamill). This story is about love and conscience. It is about getting one’s “just rewards” and I applaud Ms Hamill for taking on the challenge of bringing Ms Austen’s works to the modern audience.” - Around the Town