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It’s Little Women Spring!

BY STEFANIE CLOUTIER

Welcome to Little Women Spring, the decennial collaboration between The Concord Players and Orchard House that culminates in a presentation of the play Little Women, based on the novel of the same name. It may seem odd, the pairing of these two Concord-based organizations, but their connection goes way back.

Orchard House was, of course, the home of the Alcott family, and specifically where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her iconic novel, Little Women. In that novel, the March sisters write and perform theatricals – just as the Alcott sisters did when growing up. Louisa actually considered a life in the theater, writing plays and performing locally. In fact, she and her sister Anna helped found The Concord Dramatic Union here in town. It’s where Anna Alcott met her future husband, John Pratt, acting out a love scene from the play The Loan of a Lover. The Concord Dramatic Union became the Concord Dramatic Club, which in 1919 became The Concord Players.

All images courtesy of the Concord Players

That origin story is why the Players feel such kinship with Orchard House, and why every ten years they perform a play based on the novel Little Women. It is in fact their passion play, first performed in 1932 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Ms. Alcott. In that production the role of Mr. March was played by Concord resident and Alcott descendant Bronson Alcott Pratt. World War II prevented the performance in 1942, but it returned in 1952 with Nancy B. Ellis, sister of future president George H.W. Bush, playing a part. It has been performed every ten years since, until Covid pushed the 2022 performance to 2023. Notably, Orchard House director Jan Turnquist played the role of Marmee in three separate productions: 1992, 2002, and 2012, further cementing the connection.

All images courtesy of the Concord Players

As part of Little Women Spring, the Players hosted a film festival of four of the Little Women films, starting with the 1933 version featuring Katharine Hepburn, and culminating with the 2019 version filmed partly here in Concord. Fittingly, the festival took place at the School of Philosophy, on the grounds of Orchard House, on the four Thursday evenings in February. Several of the benches in that building were built and used for the most recent film. On March 19, the Players will host a tea at their space at 51 Walden to celebrate Louisa May and her iconic novel; it will feature finger sandwiches, tiny pastries and light entertainment.

All images courtesy of the Concord Players

All of which leads to the crowning event, the performance of the 2005 Broadway musical version of this story, onstage at 51 Walden, home of the theatrical company descended from Louisa May and her contemporaries. It will run weekends from April 28 through May 13.

The Concord Players and Orchard House welcome everyone to take part in Little Women Spring by attending any or all of these events. For information, including how to get tickets or to volunteer, please go to the Players website at concordplayers.org.

All images courtesy of the Concord Players

Stefanie Cloutier is a longtime Concord resident and writer of plays and nonfiction. She is a Town Tour Guide, a coordinator for Concord Carlisle Adult & Community Ed, and a member of The Concord Players.