Arts and Entertainment

Orcas Center stages 'Little Women'

Update: An additional performance has been added on Wednesday, Nov. 3 due to the show's popularity.

They are a quartet of feisty sisters whose stories have withstood the test of time.

Orcas Center is presenting its major fall production of “Little Women,” based on the novel by American author Louisa May Alcott. The play follows the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in Concord, Mass. in the late 1800s. It is loosely based on Alcott’s childhood experiences with her three sisters – the character Jo is based on Alcott herself. “Little Women” has been adapted as a play, an opera, a film, and animation.

Orcas Center is staging John D. Ravold’s classic adaptation, directed by Robert Hall. The play will open on Oct. 28 and run through Nov. 6. It features a cast of more than 15 local actors, including both teens and adults.

“It’s not about the play, it’s about the book,” Hall said. “We’re paying homage to the book ... It’s an ensemble piece. It’s a portrait of a healthy, loving family. It’s a character-driven play, not a plot-driven play. It’s strong on personality and character.”

Because several characters grow from childhood to young adulthood in the course of the story, Hall decided to double cast with both young and adult actors.

The young cast includes Brigid Ehrmantraut as Meg, Claire Orser as Jo, Aliza Diepenbrock as Beth, Claire Bishop Martin as Amy, Ray Doss as John Brooke, and Mathew Lalso as Laurie.

An adult Jo is being played by Maria Massey, Cara Russell is portraying Meg, Clarabeth Smith is Beth, Jamie Mulligan Smith is Amy, Zak Knight is playing Laurie, and Jared Grantham is John Brooke. Other actors include Mimi Anderson as Marmee, Deborah Sparks as Aunt March, Frank Michels as Mr. March, and Indy Zoeller as Professor Bhaer.

Hall has added a new element to the production: Alcott, played by Donna Laslo, will narrate the entire play. Local writer Michele Griskey has developed the narrative based on Alcott’s memoirs and letters.

Beth Baker, who last played Rose in “Gypsy,” is stage manager, Marsha Gillingham is helping with costumes, and Chris Brems has designed and built the sets.

“Rehearsals are going beautifully,” Baker said. “Every night is very productive. Robert is an amazing director ... Some of the best of our community has stepped forward to help with our little show.”

Hall has been acting and directing for nearly 40 years. He most recently appeared in “Henry V” with the San Juan Island theatre company Stage Left. Hall studied at the University of Montana and the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. He has performed at the San Jose Rep and Berkeley Rep, worked on the films “A River Runs Through It” and “The Horse Whisperer” and appeared as an actor in the film “Disorganized Crime.”

Hall says he prefers working as a director because “you can see the big picture.”

Massey, who studied at the Northwest Film Center and Chapman University, says portraying the character of Jo has been challenging, as she hasn’t appeared on stage since high school. Her recent work has been in school film projects.

“It’s difficult in the sense that there is a certain subtlety,” Massey said. “I have to muster enthusiasm to be larger than life on stage ... Jo needs to be big and dynamic and engaging. So I’m working really hard.”

Tickets for ‘Little Women’

“Little Women” will run for six performances: Oct. 28 to 30 and Nov. 4 to 6. Tickets are $13 and $9 for students. To purchase tickets, visit orcascenter.org or call or 376-2281 ext 1 or visit Orcas Center during box office hours, Thursday-Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.

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