Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is one of America’s enduring literary classics. The coming-of-age tale of the four March sisters during the Civil War has captivated readers for decades and has been adapted many times over as a play, musical, television show and movie throughout the years.
In fact, even when Lewisville Playhouse opens its production of “Little Women” on December 1, it won’t be the first time the theater organization has taken audiences along Jo March’s journey with her sisters Meg, Amy and Beth over the course of its 40-year existence. Nonetheless, this Kate Hamill written adaptation represents a fresh new take on “Little Women” that mirrors the evolving direction of the longstanding theater organization and local community institution producing it.
“What really drew me to this adaptation, (and) the first thing I said to a friend after I read it, was all of the girls are people in this one,” Lewisville Playhouse “Little Women” Director Lindsey Humphries said, explaining that this version of the story allows the March sisters to be more than just archetypes and gives them all more room to grow within their individual storylines compared to other adaptations that have attempted to bring the story to the stage. “One of the things that’s really interesting to me is I feel like even someone who did not read these books multiple times as a child the way I did would still find a story that they would love in it.”
Humphries views this version of “Little Women” as an homage to Louisa May Alcott herself, given the journey it takes its characters on, especially when it comes to Jo.
“This version really gives Jo room to explore not fitting into the perfect woman mold, and doesn’t treat that as a character failing she has to grow out of, but just as who she is,” Humphries said, adding that the story and performances help explore more of who Jo is as a character rather than what society forces her to be.
In a similar manner, Humphries credits her cast with helping to bring the March sisters to life as real people rather than simply translating their written characters onto the stage.
“We have a cast who really has treated them as characters who they are bringing to life as real people but have honored the source material they come from. They have not rewritten them into people who they were not in the novel or in the play at all,” Humphries said.
The actors behind the characters have also brought something of a sisterhood of their own to life during the production.
“The whole cast is just full of actors who think about their characters, but also actors who think about and care about their scene partners,” Humphries said, referring to it as a “very collaborative” experience.
She described how some of her favorite moments during the rehearsal process have been seeing how the cast celebrates one another’s achievements and breakthroughs.
“If somebody was struggling with lines in one scene and they got it, or somebody made a really cool discovery that changed it up, the way that they celebrate each other has been an ongoing favorite thing, and they do it so regularly and without thinking or realizing that it’s special,” Humphries said, recalling how the cast members were more excited to talk about how each other looked when they first tried on the full, elegant 1800s costuming for the show than they were for themselves.
“This is the first time I ever thought of myself as a woman director, not just as a director who happens to be a woman,” Humphries said. “Really, it’s been an empowering experience because of the people involved.”
She credits incoming Lewisville Playhouse Artistic Director Zachary Cantrell with helping guide the “natural evolution” of the theater organization and helping to create such a special environment that builds from the positive experiences she’s had working with the organization in the past.
“It’s very much somebody showed up and they went, ‘This is good. How do we take it to the next level? How do we do even better?’” Humphries said.
She also credited the show’s production crew, such as Master Carpenter John Damian Sr., who worked on the organization’s past “Little Women” performances, with helping create a great rehearsal setting and production.
Humphries hopes that the end result will be a show that lets audiences “feel seen” and hopeful for the future. She described how she wants audiences to leave Lewisville Playhouse with the feeling that there are people in the world who want to see change and for everyone to be valued and seen for who they truly are.
“That, at its core, is what I hope that (audiences) take from it,” Humphries said.
The Lewisville Playhouse production of “Little Women” runs from December 1 through December 17. For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit https://www.lewisvilleplayhouse.org/.
This interview has been edited for clarity.