The ensemble cast comprises professional actors in the adult roles and CSArts-SGV students playing the March sisters and their childhood friends
Published : Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | 11:29 AM
There are certain stories that stand the test of time. This is especially true of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, “Little Women,” which, although published in 1868, has themes and messages that have remained relevant for many generations. In a world premiere adaptation by the Sierra Madre Playhouse’s Artistic Director Christian Lebano, the American classic springs to new life in a play featuring Acting Conservatory students from California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV). This partnership provides both authenticity to the production and a unique mentorship opportunity for students to learn from professionals. “Little Women” takes place over three weeks, October 17 through November 3, at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre.
According to the director, the story points to core values that are important to be reminded of in today’s busy world. “The joy of being happy and secure and loved by family, the importance of a nurturing space, and the appreciation of simple things, are all themes that I want audiences to experience,” said Lebano. “There is an essential goodness to this story that appeals to me as a counterbalance to the discord we hear every day in the media and feel every day in the mad rush to get by.”
Set during the Civil War, Lebano’s version of “Little Women” uses Alcott’s original dialogue and captures favorite episodes from the first section of the book. Each of the four March sisters have their own unique dreams, talents and motivations. Jo is a struggling author never wavering in her passion and determination; Amy is the youngest but most refined; Beth loves music and has a selfless nature; and Meg is proper but a romantic at heart. Perhaps due to the fact that Alcott based the characters on her own sisters and herself, the March sisters are both complex and relatable.
CSArts-SGV sophomore Jillian Channels said one of her favorite parts about working on “Little Women” is having the chance to examine the importance of each scene and character.
“Every character has a strength that another character admires in the story,” said Channels. “It’s important to recognize and be familiar with each character because they represent a key concept in the story. Playing Jo March has opened my eyes to her traits and how she sees the world. I’ve learned that the more I dissect the lines, the story and the characters’ meaningful words behind every scene, the more I’ve been able to find the beautiful message behind it all.”
The collaboration with the Sierra Madre Playhouse also gives the student performers an opportunity to gain valuable learning experiences.
“Our CSArts-SGV students are getting an opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals at every level of this production,” said CSArts-SGV Chair of Theatre Jud Williford. “They are learning what it takes to participate in ensemble storytelling by developing an awareness of their individual responsibility to the truth of their character. The process itself, from rehearsals through performance, also gives them the experience of what it’s like to stay disciplined during a longer run.”
Channels recalled how much positive energy and support she felt during the first table reading with the adult actors and how that carried throughout the rehearsals. “Working with professional actors has been a great advantage,” said Channels. “I’m so grateful they are in the production with us because they provide helpful advice and are always on top of their lines and blocking. They are role models I look up to.”
Lebano reflects on the experience for both sides, “I’m sure that the young actors would say that watching the adult actors work has been illuminating — the professionalism, the preparation and the struggles have all been instructive. I know the adults are thrilled to be working with these talented and so very enthusiastic young actors – who wouldn’t be?”
“Little Women” runs for three weeks at the Sierra Madre Playhouse from Oct. 17 through Nov. 3. Tickets are $25-$35 and can be purchased online at sierramadreplayhouse.org.
About California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley
California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV) provides an unparalleled arts and academic education in a creative, challenging and nurturing environment to a diverse student body passionate about the arts, preparing them to reach their highest potential. Serving more than 1,200 students in grades 7 through 12, the public charter school draws students from more than 80 cities within and outside the San Gabriel Valley. CSArts-SGV is the place for aspiring young artists to refine their skills and flourish in one of the four schools of study offered, including: dance, fine & media arts, music and theatre. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), CSArts-SGV provides a rigorous college-preparatory program aligned to Common Core State Standards that includes a dual-enrollment program with Citrus College and a wide variety of Advanced Placement courses. CSArts-SGV received the national Arts Schools Network New and Emerging School Award and has been voted Best Charter School in the San Gabriel Valley for the past two years.
CSArts-SGV is the first regional campus to open in a network of charter schools operated by the California School of the Arts Foundation, an organization designed to establish high-achieving, comprehensive schools based on Orange County School of the Arts’ successful business and curriculum models. CSArts-SGV is a tuition-free public-private partnership with Duarte Unified School District and is located at 1401 Highland Ave., Duarte, Calif. For more information, visit sgv.csarts.net.