Musical version of Austen classic returns from run in Britain

November 15, 2012 11:00 AM


"Sense and Sensibility, A Musical"

"Necessity is the mother of invention."

This English proverb is a perfect description of how Tin Roof Productions founder Karen Hamer created and nurtured "Sense and Sensibility, A Musical."

"This is our third musical," says Hamer, who founded "Tin Roof" with her husband Frank in 2008. "Back in 2006, I wrote my first musical adaptation, which was 'Anne of Green Gables.' I put in as much as possible from the book and wrote the lyrics. People came, they wept through it. It was magical. Then I thought, 'What can I can do that people will really want to come to?'"

So was born the Jane Austen period of Hamer's theatrical career. "Sense and Sensibility" returns to the area this weekend after a successful run at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath.
"Pride and Prejudice" opened in November 2009 to brisk ticket sales: Almost 1,800 people attended, she says. "It really came off the big 'Pride and Prejudice' obsession that existed in the culture. People came from Denver, Woodland Park: I knew it was nothing about the show because there were no previews or reviews. They loved it.

"We sort of mistakenly went on thinking, 'Oh, we'll just do another one and it will just be like that.'"

That was to be Hamer's musical version of "Sense and Sensibility," which opened in Dec 2011, the 200th anniversary of the book. It proved to be more problematic than "Pride."
Hamer cast the play in May. In June, she threw her script away. "It was boring. It had turned into this drawing room play. People just sat and talked to each other."
She and her daughter were writing lyrics and songs but still didn't have a script.

"We got to September and started rehearsals," she remembers. "The cast would show up and we'd say 'There's still no script, but here's another song.'"

Cast member Lisa Young made Hamer an offer she couldn't refuse: Young would watch Hamer's children for four days so the script could be finished.

With a cast of 18, about 1,000 people attended a dozen performances in the theatre at First United Methodist Church. "It made people happy." She decided to spread the "happiness" to England and the Jane Austen Festival 2012 in Bath.

In order to mount the show overseas, numerous changes had to be made. First, the cast needed to be smaller. So the dozen actors who agreed to travel played two or three roles.

And the script was revised to accommodate the changed settings. This is the version that plays the Tri-Lakes Arts Center this weekend.

"Jane Austen will be on stage," explains Hamer. "She talks with her characters, they argue with her about the way things are going, she manipulates the story. That element is much stronger in this rewrite."
Hamer, in fact, introduces the play's setting and the characters before the musical begins.

Lisa Young press release formatted

Where's Paris?
A recyclable cardboard FUNDRAISER to take musical Sense and Sensibility to the Jane Austen Festival, Bath, UK in September 2012.

"Paris recently lost his right hand coming down Barr Trail, so we naturally have some concerns. But I’m confident we’ll have him in great shape for the Peak.”
~ Chris Kjeldsen, photographer

Directed by Andrew Harmon

Press Release
New Musical Sense and Sensibility Premieres in Colorado Springs
Tin Roof Productions celebrates the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s first novel with a fresh new work by playwright/director Karen Hamer.

Colorado Springs, CO – When Karen Burnett Hamer, Founder and Artistic Director of Tin Roof Productions, decided to write an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, she wanted to create a work that would invite people to step right into the world of Jane Austen. As well as exploring the relationship of a writer to her work, Hamer also examines the growth of the novelʼs heroine, Elinor Dashwood. “Many women tell me, ʻI am Elinor,ʼ” Hamer says, “and so I have tried to address the emotional weight behind this statement which says to me that people seek something in their lives beyond the burden of unacknowledged duty and social pretense.”

Building on the popularity of Hamerʼs first Austen adaptation in 2009, Pride & Prejudice, this musical marks Tin Roof's first collaboration between mother and daughter. Hamerʼs daughter, singer-songwriter Jessamine Hamer, composed all the music for the upcoming production, working in response to Hamerʼs vision of an ‘Irish lullaby.’ “I wanted something simple, evocative and soothing,” says Hamer, “and Jessamine brings a contemporary musical expression to the timeless themes of this story. Whether in Elinorʼs haunting ʻRevelation,ʼ Edwardʼs compelling ʻThousand Secrets,ʼ or Mrs. Dashwoodʼs heartrending ʻSoothe Me,ʼ we hear and feel the longing of the characters for real intimacy and to be known and received for who they truly are.”

Costume designer Heather Clark, who worked on Tin Roofʼs most recent show, The Crucible, has returned for Sense and Sensibility. “Heatherʼs generous use of color and texture brings the characters to life,” observes Hamer, “and provides a rich visual counterpoint to the fast-paced script which has the tongue-in-cheek feel of Austenʼs earliest work. I’m also excited to work with local painter Chris Alvarez because of his insight into Elinor Dashwood, who is also an artist. Chris’s paintings are stunning and invite us into Elinor’s story at a deep, visceral level.”

In addition to the well-known characters, Hamer says she has enjoyed developing some of the lesser known elements of the novel for the stage, and that she believes the show will be “an intriguing treasure hunt for Janeites and theatergoers alike.”

Sense and Sensibility is produced by Jana Bussanich and runs December 2–18 at the First United Methodist Theater, 420 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs. Tickets are $12–$15 and may be purchased online at

Press Release
Tin Roof Productions Unveils Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
An unusual blend of time periods creates a fresh, new look for Tony Award-winning classic.

Colorado Springs, CO, July 1, 2011 When Tin Roof Productions’ Founder and Artistic Director, Karen Hamer, decided to direct the Tony Award-winning drama, “The Crucible,” she wanted to do it in a way that would invite people to view the story with fresh eyes.  “Miller did a masterful job of writing an allegory of the suspicion, accusation, and fear of the McCarthy era by setting the play in the 1690s during the New England witch trials,” states Hamer. “And he juxtaposed it brilliantly with a profound love story and a personal journey into truth and redemption. It’s been a powerful combination for almost sixty years, since ‘The Crucible’ first opened on Broadway, and I was looking for a new way to present this remarkable play.”

And so was born her unusual vision of Arthur Miller’s celebrated drama, still set in the 17th century Salem witch trial era, but with a definite nod to the Fifties. “The Crucible” will be presented by Tin Roof Productions August 18-28, 2011 at the First United Methodist Theater, 420 N. Nevada Ave., in Colorado Springs.

“The Crucible” tells the story of John Proctor, a well-respected farmer and citizen in the small, Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts. When Abigail Williams, a 17 year old servant girl with whom Proctor has ended an affair before the play opens, sets out to destroy first Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, and then Proctor himself, he is caught in the aftermath of the enormous, unintended consequences of his actions. As Proctor wrestles with his unwillingness to reveal Abigail’s intentions – and thus reveal himself – the well-ordered and stable Puritan community of Salem begins to unravel amidst allegations of witchcraft by Abigail and her accomplices. Both examining and hastening this disintegration, Deputy-Governor Danforth – played by veteran Colorado Springs actor, Buck Buchanan – darkly observes, “We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.”

On a macro level, “The Crucible” is about politics and history and the ways history repeats itself, which makes it contemporary and timely. On a personal level, it is the profound love story of a husband and wife who face each other falteringly, through the lens of betrayal and brokenness, in and discover the courage to forgive. “I want people to hold their breath as John Proctor’s family falls apart and the community around him descends into chaos under the juggernaut of his mistakes and inaction,” said Hamer. “And I want them to hold their breath even longer as he claws his way inch by inch towards redemption, against the odds, and in the face of unmitigated evil.”

Ultimately, “The Crucible” is the universal story of a flawed, culpable Everyman seeking the limits of his social and moral conscience in order to truly know himself. The central design goal for Hamer, therefore, was to create a look as timeless as the play’s themes, that pays tribute to both the 1690s and the 1950s. To that end, Colorado Springs designer and costumer, Heather Clark, decided to blend fashion design elements from both periods, and she chose fabric textures and colors to clarify the play’s themes. “Heather is a fabulous designer,” said Hamer, “and Tin Roof Productions is excited to collaborate with a strong creative team of designers and actors from along the Front Range to bring a dynamic, arresting and memorable performance of “The Crucible” to Colorado Springs.”

For additional information, contact: Jana Bussanich 719.460.4588 Email: Web: