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Little Women introduces us to the March sisters – responsible Meg, fiery Jo, gentle Beth, and artistic Amy – as they navigate the challenges of growing up against the backdrop of the Civil War. Guided by their devoted mother Marmee while their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Union Army, the girls face hardships and heartbreak but never lose sight of what matters most – family.

Little Women is renowned not only for its endearing characters and engaging story, but also for the powerful social commentary it provides on the role of women in 19th century America. The novel subtly introduces feminist themes, such as women’s aspirations, independence, and the pursuit of careers, challenging traditional gender roles and expectations. Jo March in particular has inspired generations of readers as a rebellious, ambitious character eager to forge her own path in a society with limited opportunities for women.

 

At the same time, the story validates women’s choices, even if they align with convention, as seen through the character of Meg. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, Little Women also offers insight into the challenges faced by families of that era and highlights the importance of resilience. Through the moral guidance of Marmee, the novel imparts timeless lessons about kindness, empathy and humility. With its focus on the strong bonds between the March sisters and their friend Laurie, Little Women portrays the profound impact of love, support and camaraderie.

Director Kerry Ann Doherty brings a wealth of experience and a clear vision to this production. “It’s a story of love, a family who go through really hard times and yet bring out the best in each other,” she shares. By focusing on the bonds of love that carry the characters through adversity, Doherty aims to envelop the audience in the warmth of the March family home. “Wrapping the audience in a big blanket of love, that’s what I’m hoping to do.”

The intimacy and authenticity of the relationships portrayed is key, and Doherty has worked closely with intimacy director Megan Quinn to build the sense of a real family on stage in a short rehearsal period. The emotional depth of the story has resonated with the cast as well. “We’ve had a lot of laughs. We’ve cried a bit. Good crying, though,” Doherty reveals. “The play is emotional.”

Audiences can expect to see a thoughtful condensation of the novel that captures the spirit of Alcott’s writing. “Marion Defrost, who wrote this version of the play, took actual dialogue from the book and put it in a play. So some of the dialogue is word for word,” explains Doherty. “We get the best of the book on the stage.”

Little Women is a fitting choice for University Players, as the coming-of-age themes resonate with the student performers who are also on the cusp of adulthood themselves. Doherty praises the cast and crew, noting, “The students that they’re the cast and my stage management team. They are fantastic. We’re having a really great time. It’s a hard work, but it’s also very rewarding.”

The production aims to be an uplifting experience that celebrates the enduring power of family bonds. “It’s a love story. Like, it’s love,” Doherty emphasizes. “It’s a family who go through really hard times and yet find the best. They just bring out the best in each other and continue on.”

Little Women will run at Essex Hall Theatre from March 15-24, 2024. Tickets are available now through the University Players box office.

 

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