Louisa May Alcott’s long-beloved “Little Women” tells the story of the March sisters, young women living during the Civil War who must face hardship in order to make happy lives for themselves.
“Little Women” has become an essential novel for generations of readers, and — not surprisingly — has inspired many adaptations. There have been several stage and film adaptations (including a fondly remembered 1994 version starring Winona Ryder, and an upcoming all-star adaptation written and directed by Greta Gerwig) and, yes, even a Broadway musical.
Anyone curious to see how that musical matches up with the novel or the upcoming film should check out the staging of the show from Texas State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance. The department’s musical theater program, under the helm of Kaitlin Hopkins, has become a top producer of Broadway-quality fare these past few years.
We spoke to the show’s director and choreographer, Master of Fine Arts candidate Alex Rodriguez, to learn more about the production.
American Statesman: "Little Women" is in the public consciousness right now thanks to the new film version that's coming out later this year. Did that have anything to do with the decision to stage the musical this season?
Alex Rodriguez: Oddly enough, it didn’t. In the past couple of years, there have been numerous adaptations in response to “Little Women” celebrating its (150th anniversary). This milestone of the classic certainly informed our decision, but the new film adaptation was not on our radar at that time. Coincidentally, this milestone came at a time when the vast impact of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements was felt across the country and our industry. We were drawn to Louisa May Alcott’s story about four sisters coming of age during the Civil War era and how this musical adaptation would resonate with our audiences in a time of courage, sisterhood and perseverance.
How do you approach staging a story that's taken on such an iconic position in our culture?
We concentrated on the adaptation. The pre-production research and source material are vital, but each adaptation makes tough choices about what’s integral to the story, and our responsibility is to support these. The creative team behind the musical has captured the essence of these characters and given us a lush landscape to dive deeper into their emotional core. We’re certain this adaptation will offer a unique insight for fans of the classic as well as introducing a new generation to this timeless story.
How does directing students differ from working with professional actors on other shows?
The students at Texas State University’s musical theatre program bring a level of artistry, discipline and skill into the space equal to that of any professional actor I’ve ever worked with. What differs is my awareness that they’re also navigating a full course load, homework, auditions and jobs. This awareness makes us more flexible and understanding when things come up; ultimately, their well-being is our priority.
Is there anything else you'd like audience members to know about "Little Women"?
In the final chapter of “Little Women”, Alcott quotes an 1842 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow titled “The Rainy Day”: “Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.”
The strength, persistence and triumph of our favorite characters in “Little Women” are amplified when you take into account that they were living through some of the darkest times in our history. Each of us will face heartache and difficulty; we will learn to love and be loved; and we will fall and persevere. All of that makes us human, makes us complete. There’s a misconception that “Little Women” is a story only suited for women and young girls, but I argue that there’s something for each of us to learn from this story, and those most reluctant might have the most to gain.