ATHABASCA – After months of hard work, the 14-student cast of Edwin Parr Composite School’s Little Women senior high theatre production can have a breather, confident they put on a strong show.
The cast started with three plays Nov. 30 — two for their classmates, and a public showing in the evening — before performing in the evening Dec. 1, and twice Dec. 2.
“In the past we’ve done quite a bit of male-dominated or male lead focused, and I have an abundance of very strong independent women so without question it was going to be Little Women,” said co-director Brittany Topola. “The story of sisterhood was something I really wanted to bring to stage.”
Little Women was initially written by Louisa May Alcott in two parts in 1868 and 1869. The story focuses heavily on four teenaged sisters who are coming of age at separate times and in separate ways. The adaptation Topola chose focused heavily on Josephine “Jo” March, the second-oldest sister based on Alcott herself, played by Grade 12 student Molly Martin.
“I got out of my comfort zone — I have to cry, I have to be in love, I have to laugh with my sisters, and doing that in front of a lot of people is difficult,” said Martin just before the cast took the stage for their final dress rehearsal Nov. 29.
Sisterhood is the dominant theme throughout the production, and the cast members took to it heartily. Sofie Mestinsek, another Grade 12 student, played the oldest of the four sisters, Margaret “Meg” March.
“It’s been pretty easy, we all knew each other, but it’s brought us closer for sure,” said Mestinsek.
Myah Schweer and Kyra Karczmarczyk, both in Grade 10, played the two youngest sisters, Elizabeth “Beth” March and Amy March, respectively.
“This play, being such a big family and we’re all sisters, it’s really comforting. We face the world as girls, and as women, and as a group,” said Schweer. “It shows how each of us, who all have different personalities, it shows how together we can act as one.”
The production came together in part thanks to community support. One parent created period-era dresses for the young women to wear, and the set was created by Topola’s husband. Much of the other work was handled by the cast themselves, who were in charge of set transitions, prepared props backstage, and helped with quick changes.
“It’s been an incredible experience, we have incredible people onstage, behind the scenes, it’s so collaborative and amazing to go through,” said TJ Sawchuk, a Grade 11 student who played Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. “It’s a group where it’s really accepting of everybody, it’s been great to be a part of.”
Little Women is first and foremost a coming-of-age story. It’s resonated with young women since it was first written, and the plethora of screen and stage adaptations have kept the themes at the forefront.
Topola said it had been an “honour and a privilege” to work with the cast and to help guide them through themes the play dealt with.
“There’s first loves in here and breaking of hearts, and we’ve had, as a cast, some really deep conversations and touching conversations about things that you go through as a young person, as a female in particular,” said Topola. “It’s been a real bonding experience, and they’ve taken the things we’ve talked about to heart, and really brought them to the stage.”