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Arthur Goes to The Theatre: ASTC's Adaptation of "Little Women"

Written by
Emi Habel
and
and
November 24, 2022
Arthur Goes to The Theatre: ASTC's Adaptation of "Little Women"
Photography by Eliza Mill

If there is anything you should know about Arthur is that we love supporting our fellow Levy Groups. So, when the ASTC invited Arthur to attend their premiere of Little Women on November 18th, I grabbed my pen and Service Dog and bolted for the play.

The Anne Shirley Theatre Company, also known as the ASTC, is a Levy Group at Trent University. The ASTC provides a creative space for students to explore their interest in theatre acting and singing, hosting yearly musicals and play productions, as well as an improvisation group. The ASTC strives to produce theatre programming that is as accessible and inclusive as possible and wishes to provide opportunities for students to experience all aspects of theatre, both on and off the stage

ASTC hosts most of their productions at Nozhem: First Peoples' Performance Space, the theatre space has room for people who use wheelchairs, mobility aids and Service Dogs. From past experiences, I have always found able-bodied audience members willing to change seats to accommodate people with disabilities. You may also speak to a production staff member for guidance if that is better for you.

The ASTC’s latest production, a dramatization of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, Little Women, premiered on November 18th. 

Following Marisha Chamberlain’s adaptation of the classic novel, the ASTC’s Little Women was a charming and poignant play. The dramatized play featured our favourite March sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth, Amy, and their sweet mother, Marmee, alongside the ever-daring Theodore “Teddy” Laurence and his father, Mr. Lawrence, and his tutor, Mr. Brooke. Of course, the play wouldn’t be complete without Aunt March’s snobbish allure. Special recognition goes to Hannah, the March’s loyal maid and cook, who also played Mr. March upon his return home from the Union Army. 

As someone who has read Little Women religiously for the past 10 years without seeing any of its movie adaptations, I didn’t know how it would feel to see the scenes I imagined in my head acted out. The characters have lived on in my head for many years; I related heavily to Jo, the “oddball” of her sisters, who was often misunderstood and let her inherited temper embark her on adventures wilder than the ones she wrote. I too held on to hope that one day, maybe, my writing would take me somewhere broader than my echo chamber. Now here I am, writing for Arthur and reflecting on Jo’s own journey to becoming a published writer. In the play, we get a glimpse of her submitting one of her manuscripts to a journal for publication. Yet in the novel, we read about Jo’s dilemma between excitement and the fear of rejection as she kept the submission a secret for two months. Though the play didn’t focus much on this chapter of Jo’s life, it resonated with me, as I hope it resonates with student writers who are exploring the freedom that comes with letting your writing fly out of your metaphorical nest.

The play managed to evoke emotion with few stage props or changes, relying instead on timing, lighting, and music to immerse the audience in the story. It felt as if we were sitting in the March living room as the sisters hid behind a crocheted blanket; Jo commanding Beth to start playing the piano and Amy belting off-tune with confidence while Meg graciously remembered her lines. We were guided through the evolving relationship between the March household and their neighbours, the Laurences, showing us the ever-growing chemistry between Jo and Teddy, as well as Meg and Mr. Brooke. Jo’s awkwardness around Teddy slowly melts during the play, prompted by his saving Amy from an icy (off-stage) lake and his father’s care for the March family. 

As the play progressed, I realized I had blissfully forgotten about Beth’s battle with Scarlet Fever despite my dedicated re-reading of the novel (I usually skipped that part). So, there I was in my seat, bawling my eyes out as Beth crumpled on the couch with Jo at her side and Marmee and Hannah with their eyes closed, hoping for a second of rest before the inevitable happened. 

Jo made a lighthearted joke to cheer up Beth, something along the lines of “you have to hold on, we will have other plagues to go through”, and I was suddenly fighting my tears with laughter. It brought me into the surreal position of watching one of my childhood heroines dying of Scarlet Fever (one of the world’s many deadly pandemics), knowing full well that we, too, are in a deadly pandemic today. Despite this being a reenactment, the emotions conveyed by a student holding on to her dying sister depict what many of us have had to face since 2020. 

I commend the play director and actors for creating such a powerful scene with nuances and leaving the audience members with something to consider carefully.

Though the play could, of course, not include everything from the original novel, it brought life and originality to the scenes of an important story that depicts what it is like to live as “little women”; to live in a society that systematically tries to attach your worth and value to your generational wealth, appearance, and relationship status. The ASTC’s adaptation of Little Women breathed fresh air into the classic novel, and I would wholeheartedly recommend seeing it this November. 

The ASTC’s Little Women will be showing on:

Friday, November 25th at 7:00PM 

Saturday, November 26th at 7:00PM

Sunday, November 27th at 2:00PM

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite for $15 and $10 for Trent students who pay at the door. 

The ASTC would like to let all students know their wish to bring as much of the performing arts as possible to the community this year, with a Swing Dance Night featuring a live band happening on Thursday, November 24th, and Trent’s Got Talent coming up this spring where the Trent community will get the chance to showcase its artistic abilities.

Don’t miss out on these creative and inspirational opportunities!

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