No small parts, only ‘Little Women’

Fourth Wall Student Theater delivers another triumphant production

David Matos and Michael LaRocca

Everyone has to suffer through the aggravating transition into adulthood. It’s the stage in life where you have to moderate between societal expectations and your interests. Times like these are tough, especially if you’re a young woman tied to your small town in the middle of the Civil War.

The Fourth Wall Student Theater at Quinnipiac University presented Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the American classic “Little Women,” in the Theatre Arts Center from April 1-3.

The coming-of-age story tells the tale of the four March sisters — Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Each with a unique identity and ambition, they all go through the passage from adolescence to womanhood differently.

Growing up during the Civil War with her three sisters, Jo March, played by Autumn Hirsch, a second-year 3+1 public relations major, is an ungovernable young woman. She yearns to not be weighed down by traditional Victorian ideals for women of the 19th century but instead strives to someday be a reputable American novelist.

“Jo is really interesting,” Hirsch said. “She’s the first feminist we really see in mass media, especially that’s taught in schools.”

Hirsch expressed her lines effortlessly and did a remarkable job as the lead of the production, conveying the headstrong March sister. She said that she wanted women to see themselves in her character as there are many scenes where Jo stands her ground against the men in the play.

“I really want everybody, but especially the women in the audience to be able to relate to (Jo),” Hirsch said. “And to be able to understand that she was such an outspoken person, especially in the time period she was living in.”

Emma Poirier, a third-year 3+1 biology major, directed the play. She said the cast only had four weeks of rehearsal, losing a week to spring break on March 13-18. Despite the limited amount of preparation, the “Little Women” cast operated harmoniously with one another.

“We have a really, really great cast,” Poirier said. “They all get along … sometimes theater kids have big personalities. But that’s not a problem for us, which is really, really great. We were on a tight timeline.”

Amy March, played by Sam Hart, a junior film, television and media arts major, is the youngest of the sisters and is not afraid to throw a tantrum or pick a fight with her other sisters, especially Jo. Hart said her character’s combativeness posed a challenge to portray as Hart’s personality couldn’t be more dissimilar from Amy’s.

“She is the spoiled brat … I think playing her has been so interesting, because that’s totally the opposite of how I am in real life,” Hart said. “I never had a role that’s like the antagonist, so it’s been super fun to kind of explore how she fits in her family.”

Despite Hart taking on a demanding role, she depicted the argumentative character brilliantly on stage. Amy’s assertive and spiteful ways echoed nicely through Hart, cementing her radiant talent as an actress.

Jessica Clark, a sophomore media studies major, played Beth March, the most reserved sister. Beth spends most of her days at home and unlike Amy sees Jo to some degree as a role model of feminist ideals.

Though her personality was small, Beth had big ideas that aligned beautifully with the thoughts of the protagonist of the show, Jo. The show ended with Beth in a captivating death scene that played with the emotions of the audience. You were meant to feel for the timid character throughout the whole of the play, and Clark portrayed that excellently.

“Little Women” marks Clark’s first production at Quinnipiac, which led her to make many new friendships in the process of being a part of such an amazing production. Clark’s chemistry with the cast behind the scenes was just as evident during the final production.

“This experience is so great because I’m meeting new friends and getting back into the theater world,” Clark said. “And just this play holds a special part of my heart, because it’s about feminism and that’s a really big thing I’m passionate about.”

Despite the long workdays, Jacob Cedor, a first-year international business major who played Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, the Marchs’ next-door neighbor and Jo’s love interest, made many connections with the cast after hours.

“When you get released from rehearsal, you go for a ride to wherever together just singing songs in the car,” Cedor said. “The fact that you still want to hang out with people after you’ve been with them for like, four or five hours, five days a week is just a bond that you don’t really see anywhere other than here.”

Christina Stoeffler, a sophomore English and theater double major, believes that the friendships made during the preparation for the production were present in everyone’s performance.

“I’ve made a lot of great friends in this program in general,” Stoeffler said. “And I think that relationship really just comes through in the acting.”

Aside from being the show’s publicity coordinator, Stoeffler also played the role of Meg March, the oldest sister, who acts as a mother figure to her younger siblings.

Stoeffler does an inspiring job playing such a prominent character while attending to her job on Fourth Wall’s executive board.

“It’s definitely a lot of work,” Stoeffler said. “But we really are dedicated to the program and we want to put on the best show that we can.”

After Fourth Wall’s production of “Proof” last semester was put on with a much smaller cast and crew, “Little Women” was an interesting challenge for the group as it was one of the largest casts the organization has seen in recent years.

“There’s not a whole lot of overlap between (the two shows),” Poirier said. “Everyone was really collaborative with making decisions together so that everything matched up. Sets (department) talked to costumes (department), and costumes talked to lights (department), which is really great.”

With “Little Women” being the American classic it has been lauded as for the past 150 years, the Fourth Wall team made it a point of emphasis to do its source material justice while also putting a spin on it that allows their actors to shine.

“(The play) not being set-heavy is going to really rely on the acting,” said Cortney Hannula, a senior computer information systems major and the play’s technical director. “That focuses on the director and the actors, being able to work with the creation of how the actors perform.”

Putting more emphasis on the acting also allowed for creative problem solving when it came to how the crew wanted to portray some of the play’s most iconic set pieces, especially the March family home.

“This was a flat where the family comes around, and they gather for Christmas, or for Sunday dinner, this was a meaningful focal point,” Hannula said. “What’s the space going to look like inside? We can only use half the stage for the March house and another half for the Laurence house or being outside. It was really up to the directors and the actors to create the things.”

All of the work and dedication put into the production over the past month paid off as “Little Women” sold out each of its four weekend showings. With much of Fourth Wall’s cast and crew being underclassmen, it is safe to say that there is a lot to look forward to in Quinnipiac theater in forthcoming semesters.