Karen Hamer, founder of Tin Roof Productions, had planned to adapt Jane Austen’s first novel, “Sense and Sensibility” for the stage in 2012. When she realized the book was actually published in 1811, she moved up production a year.
“I thought the book would be 200 years old next year,” Hamer said. “When I discovered otherwise, I started writing the play in March, we started casting in May and I threw out the script in June. It was becoming a drawing room play and that isn’t what I wanted.”
After extensive re-writing, the script was ready in September.
To write the play, Hamer read the book backwards.
“Reading the book backwards helps you to be clear about who does what,” she said. “You see where they are and you can follow them back to where they started.”
“Sense and Sensibility” isn’t Hamer’s first adaptation of an Austen book. Two years ago she adapted and directed “Pride and Prejudice,” which is probably Austen’s most popular title.
“I essentially just put the novel on the stage — it was long,” Hamer said. “Since then I have developed a knack for recognizing which parts of the story are needed and which aren’t.”
For this musical, she condensed the action and refers more to dramatic convention rather than what actually happens in the book.
“I wasn’t willing to make that jump in ‘Pride and Prejudice,’” she said. “Once I got over my need for the play to BE the book, (writing) it became a lot of fun. I hope the audience is ready to make that leap — I’m looking forward to the feedback.”
She plans to re-write “Pride and Prejudice” and produce it again for its 200th anniversary in 2013.
As for adapting “Sense and Sensibility” into a musical, Hamer said she always thought music was the spine of the book. That realization turned the work into a mother-daughter collaboration. Singer-songwriter Jessamine Hamer — who also plays the part of Marianne Dashwood — wrote the entire musical score and about two-thirds of the lyrics, while her mother wrote the rest.
Hamer envisioned a score with the simplicity of an Irish lullaby and she said her daughter delivered.
“It was funny, though, when I came up with the Irish lullaby concept, our costume designer Heather Clark was on her way to Ireland,” Hamer said. “She created the costume designs while she was there.”
Clark also designed the costumes for Tin Roof’s previous production, “The Crucible.” Hamer is also working with local painter, Chris Alvarez.
The musical has a 21-member cast — three children and 18 adults — who live in places up and down the Front Range. It is produced by Hamer’s long-time friend and theater colleague Jana Bussanich.
Karen and Frank Hamer founded Tin Roof Productions, which is based in Monument, in 2008. Karen Hamer comes from New Zealand and has been doing theater work for more than 30 years. The couple has nine children.
“The musical ”Sense and Sensibility” opens at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the First United Methodist Theater, 420 N. Nevada Ave., in Colorado Springs. It runs through Dec. 18 with showings at 7 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets ar $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults and can be purchased online at www.tinroof-productions.com.