By Frankie Kujawa
Everyman Theatre’s Resident Company member Megan Anderson has captivated and entertained Baltimore audiences for almost twenty years. Currently performing in the adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Sense and Sensibility” (written by Kate Hamill and directed by Susanna Gellert), Anderson continues to delight audiences in this performance as eldest sister Elinor Dashwood. Anderson recently chatted about her current performance, her recent artwork which is subsequently on display at Everyman, and what inspires her as a performer.
Frankie Kujawa: What do audiences have to look forward to when they see “Sense and Sensibility” at Everyman Theatre?
Megan Anderson: Audiences can look forward to a fresh, fun and soulful family-friendly story about love. It’s a story about connection and finding your person against the odds. I think they can expect to be moved and entertained and to laugh. I think audiences will enjoy being with other theater people, finally, after such a long hiatus through the pandemic. I think it’s a very beautiful thing to come back to – to laugh with people in the theater again is really special.
Frankie Kujawa: Could you describe your character in “Sense and Sensibility” for our readers?
Megan Anderson: I play Elinor Dashwood. She’s the oldest of the three Dashwood sisters. Elinor is the ‘sense’ in “Sense and Sensibility.” She keeps things close to the chest and she tries to take care of her family. She’s trying to negotiate being in love and also making responsible decisions in her life.
Frankie Kujawa: As a performer, what have you brought to this character that has made it your own version of ‘Elinor?’
Megan Anderson: To me, it doesn’t do a lot to say, ‘Well Elinor doesn’t feel very much’ or ‘She’s not very expressive.’ I try to approach the character like, ‘Ok, well why does [Elinor] behave this way? Let’s explore that.’ That’s not to say that other actors haven’t done that, but that’s what intrigued me about it. You know, [Elinor’s] father has just passed away and she finds herself the de facto caretaker in her family. I’m interested in, ‘What are the reasons why she doesn’t go around wearing her heart on her sleeve?’ You know things like, ‘what is it that makes other people mark that she’s reserved or doesn’t want to have fun?’ I guess I’ve always just been moved by the idea that [Elinor] has so much under the hood and what is that about and what kind of detective work can I do as a performer to figure that out?
Frankie Kujawa: A lot of period pieces and traditional standards like “Sense and Sensibility” it seems are coming back into the mainstream. In your opinion, what do you think makes “Sense and Sensibility” such at timeless piece that it can be told over and over again?
Megan Anderson: I love that question! I think that Jane Austen’s original story is full of relatable characters, even if their setting or their life situation is a little different from our own. I think that [Austen] is essentially writing about women who are saying, ‘What can I do to improve upon this situation that I am in? How can I rise above it if it’s holding me back? How can I find happiness in my life in a true and authentic way?’ So, I think that is a question that never gets old and is explored all the time through art. You know, I think that is certainly what makes [these stories] timeless. And I think that when playwrights and directors like Kate Hamill and Susanna Gellert, for our production, continue to reimagine the story in ways that are fresh and provide ways-in for contemporary audiences that it keeps the story going and keeps the story alive.
Frankie Kujawa: Could you tell our readers a bit about the artwork you’ve created, currently showcased in the Gallery Space on the Lower Level of Everyman, that connects to the “Sense and Sensibility” production?
Megan Anderson: I’m super excited it. I’ve always been artistic, but only since the pandemic have I become more intentional about making art. The theaters were shut down, and I was like ‘What am I going to do with my creativity?’ So, I started to make art and realized I really loved making art. And, it just so happens that with this play, the character I’m playing is an artist. So the people at Everyman were like, ‘Hey, would you like to have a show of your artwork?’ I was like, 'Oh my gosh, of course! That would be amazing.’ So this is my first show of art, ever, and I’m honored and really jazzed about it. It’s neat to put the art out there for a wider audience.
Frankie Kujawa: What do you feel is your inspiration as a performer?
Megan Anderson: I’m inspired most by what other performers are doing. Regardless of what the story is, when I am working with a scene partner or many scene partners, I just look at them and feed off of what they are giving the room and giving me. There is nothing more inspirational than what is live and happening in real time coming from other people to me. I’m also inspired by what makes humans tick. I’m so interested in why people behave the way they behave. Somebody could be an absolute demon on paper, and I would be like ‘Well they weren’t probably born that way. Let’s figure out what is causing that behavior. Let’s get down to the root to it.’ So I think it’s important to advocate for every character that you play and understand what their role is in the bigger picture of the story. So it’s definitely about what makes people tick, but on a night-to-night basis of performing the same piece, I get really inspired by what my fellow actors are doing.
For more information, please check out: everymantheatre.org/event/sense-and-sensibility/