- Heather Osteraa
“Little Women:” Behind the Attic Window with Lorenzo Aragon
The Western Stage presents “Little Women” as the first Mainstage musical of its 2019 season. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s beloved semi-autobiographical novel, “Little Women” is filled with adventure, romance, and a deep sense of hope. This heartwarming drama follows the four March sisters as they struggle to find their own paths, mirroring the growing pains of a changing America.
Read on for a conversation with Lorenzo Aragon, longtime TWS Associate Director, and Director/Choreographer of “Little Women,” opening June 22 on the Mainstage.
How are you approaching this piece in regards to style?
I’m approaching it with: What are the sharp, iconic images that are in a writer’s head? And trying to pull those out and burn them into people. The first Act’s sort of a memory play, really, because she’s thinking back to all those times…so I’m taking those images, then surrounding it with the “properness” and the wildness of Jo. That’s how I’m dealing with style. What’s supposed to be happening, and then juxtaposing with Jo’s wonderfulness…the way she challenges the norm. The events as they happened, but with the reflection of Jo’s character.
There have been many adaptations of “Little Women” in film and many stage adaptations. What do you find is different about this one, which debuted in 2005?
What it does is condenses time. Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” and then “Good Wives” and the other books in the trilogy in which all these events take place. In those days, things took forever! Information wasn’t flowing. If Meg and Brooke were having a thing, it took seven months for it to happen. Whereas, they meet in Act I and then she’s pregnant in Act II. So one thing that’s different is the movement of time. In the first book of the series, Beth doesn’t go away, but in 1912 in the first Broadway production, they killed her off! I think when it translated into the theatre, especially in those melodramatic times, they had to have the iconic angel that goes to her reward. It made good theatre. You needed the drama. And that’s one of the things taken from the original Broadway and used in this one as well.
We were talking at rehearsal about how the girls’ father doesn’t make an appearance in this adaptation. In all the other versions, the play ends with Father coming home and all is well again. Why do you think they didn’t include the father?
It makes a big statement about a single mother. Surviving, and how do you do it, and you’re alone, and how do you care for your family? In the Kate Hepburn version, they made her a mercantile woman, so she’s a working woman and she provides for her girls. In this one there’s not too much about how she provides, but I think that’s what it does. The loss of the father means they don’t have that guidance and support, and it makes Jo step into that role, playing “the pants” of the family.
Of the many shows that you’ve directed, what personal enjoyment are you getting from working on “Little Women”?
The most interesting thing that I’m taking personally is that you have the idea of family, and wanting to keep that together, and you’ll do anything to do that. At a certain point in life, you walk out of Eden and your innocence is gone. And you realize that in order to have that family, you have to let the family live, and breathe and go where it needs to go. And when you allow yourself to let it go, you find that you still have it, instead of keeping it the way it was. So that’s what’s interesting to me. I’m in the process of doing that, and I think that’s what’s sort of universal about that. And then at the end, Jo is so willful by writing the story. She does keep it together. She finds a way to keep it together.
What are some of the elements of this story that have made it so enduring over decades?
Rights of passage for women. To have a historical 1860’s woman have such vision and
individuality and passion. And to break through the glass things of normality of that time. To confront the patriarchs and the matriarchs such as Aunt March. I think that’s really celebrated. The intimacy of relationships between women is inspiring because they’re all different, and so since they’re all different, many women can connect with the individuals and say “that’s me.”
“Little Women” PERFORMS: June 22 – July 13, 2019 on the Mainstage, Hartnell College Performing Arts Center, K104. Www.westernstage.com/tickets or at the Box Office: 831-755-6816 (Open Wed – Sat, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.).
**The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Western Stage**