Louisa May Alcott‘s Little Women is a classic novel about New England girlhood during Civil War years. The book is a perennial favorite – it’s one of the top 100 novels for children – which is likely the reason composer Jason Howland, lyricist Mindi Dickstein and writer Allan Knee adapted it as a Broadway musical in 2005 . The Harvard cast has been busily rehearsing the show all semester, and the creative team recently had the chance to deepen its understanding of the text and setting in a unique manner. By visiting Orchard House in Concord, Mass., where the author’s family lived from 1858 until 1977 (and where she wrote and set the original story), the cast and crew were able to make connections to their work in concrete ways. We asked the actors playing Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – the famous March sisters – to tell us about the experience of going to the “family home.” Little Women opens Thursday, Oct. 31 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 9 in Farkas Hall.
Did visiting the house change the way you see your character?
Page Axelson, Salem State University (Amy): “Absolutely. Before visiting the house, I felt very little connection to Amy. That changed when I went to Concord. Standing in her room and seeing her pencil drawings all over the walls made me feel very close to her. I feel a kinship with my character more than ever before. Visiting the house was a unique opportunity for us as actors. How often to you get to be that close to someone you’re portraying in a show?”
How else have you researched the show and your role?
Tess Davison ’16 (Meg): “I read the abridged version of Little Women in my 6th grade English class. When I found out that the show was going to be put on here at Harvard, my mom suggested that we both read the original version to get more acquainted with the story and the characters.”
What moments came to life for you when you visited the house?
Olivia Miller ’16 (Beth): “The skits and stories Jo writes in the musicals concerning Rodrigo are some of the liveliest and most playful parts of the musical. Seeing the actual costume trunk, hat and boots that Louisa used to reenact the character from her fantasies was amazing.”
How do you approach playing a well-known character from such a beloved story?
Taylor Kay Phillips ’15 (Jo): “Jo is such a beloved character because so many young, ambitious girls relate to her story. The big difference between Jo and me is that Jo is never embarrassed. She’s so focused and passionate that she doesn’t have time to be self-conscious. Rather than trying to ‘be Jo’ or ‘act like Jo,’ I always go back to asking, ‘What does Jo want?’ and ‘How would I get it if I weren’t embarrassed?’ Jo never considers the possibility of failure – and that’s why she’s such an appealing character, because being fearless and being unique are her virtues.”