Nothing small about these ‘Little Women’
Yale’s ‘Little Women’ celebrated individuality and reflects women’s strengths in storytelling.
Courtesy of Ida Kulidzan
Society today is experiencing a renaissance of women storytellers.
“Women Talking,” “The Barbie Movie” and “The Woman King” are just a few of the most recent blockbuster hits by female directors. Yale’s production of “Little Women” is so pertinent, not only to society at large but also to the unique experiences of being a student at Yale and all the expectations and obligations that come with that.
My aunt gifted me a green-bound, delicately painted copy of the novel “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott when I was 10 years old. The edges of the pages were gilded in gold foil, and the thickness of the copy made it look like a solid bar of gold. I was intimidated by the book — so much so, that it ended up sitting on a shelf for several years.
My first real encounter with “Little Women” was in 2018. My eighth-grade history teacher invited a few students to go see our local high school’s musical adaptation of the show. I didn’t expect much; my only experience with the story was the massive copy my aunt gave me. To say that I was absolutely blown away by the show is an understatement. No book, play, song or movie had ever made me feel so seen.
I became a devout follower of “Little Women,” absorbing any medium of the story that I could find. I felt strengthened by Amy and her ambition. I felt comforted by Beth and her soft, kind disposition. Meg inspired my hopeless romantic nature. Jo made me want to become a writer, to follow my dreams, to go as far as the world would take me and never look back.
Girlhood is a fickle thing. Every now and again I still feel like I’m eight years old, sitting on a stool in my mom’s bedroom while she braids my hair. But then, I am suddenly confronted by adulthood. I have to get my own groceries, maintain my relationships across state lines and manage my own finances.
Yale’s production of “Little Women” captured the essence of girlhood and womanhood, telling a story at the intersection of dreaming, loving and growing up.
On Wednesday, I had an exclusive preview of Yale’s new production of “Little Women” at their invited dress rehearsal. Kate Hamill’s stage adaptation of “Little Women” was performed in the Dome of the Schwarzman Center this weekend. The production was entirely student-produced, and featured a majority female cast and crew, with Abby Asmuth ’26, a WKND editor for the News, as the show’s producer and Elsie Harrington ’25 as its director.
Harrington said she had familiarized herself with Hamill’s stage adaptation of the book from a theater in her hometown. When Asmuth and Harrington met to discuss putting on a show together, “Little Women” seemed like the perfect fit, according to the two.
“The team and the rehearsal room are always full of laughter,” Harrington said. “It feels like we’re all connected to the story that we’re telling because we’re all relating to it in our own personal way, but in a way that’s very palpable.”
In my conversations with the cast and crew, I found it endearing how much they all seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and seeing that translate on stage. The laughs seemed genuine, the smiles wide and their words earnest.
Nonetheless, the rehearsal had its challenges.
One roadblock the crew faced was the seating layout. The crew was not able to create layered rows of seats because of the Schwarzman Center’s fire hazard regulations, which made it difficult for audience members to view the entire stage at all times.
Despite the stage’s lowered visibility, I appreciated the theater’s coziness. The simple stage setup and unique lighting features drew the audience into the lively March household, making me feel like I was sitting among the girls. It reminded me of my own chaotic household, evoking a sense of nostalgia and subtle homesickness.
The aisles act as walkways for the actors, immersing the audience in the story. I’m not usually a fan of audience participation, but the immersive atmosphere of the stage didn’t feel uncomfortable. I was surprised when Mrs. Mingott, played by Betty Kubovy-Weiss ’25, thrust a member of the audience on stage as a potential dance partner for Jo, who was played by Ellie Atlee ’25. If that were me, I know I would be mortified, but everyone in the audience got a good laugh out of it.
The technological aspects of this production are simple but well executed: live sound effects for knocking on doors, voiceovers of Jo’s inner dialogue and tinkling piano notes to match Beth’s playing, to name a few.
The lighting design in this show was particularly notable. Lighting designer Lucy Xiao ’26 created beautiful color schemes to transport the audience from scene to scene. The March home was warm and inviting, the snowy lawn was cool-toned and bright and the spotlights used added to the isolation that Jo and Laurie experienced during the ballroom scene. The lighting changed to match the mood of the characters, transitioning from warm to cool colors depending on the emotions present.
While the crew was responsible for bringing the setting to life, it was the actors who brought the story to life.
Paloma Vigil ’25, who is an Arts editor for the News, played Marmee, the caring matriarch of the March family. Her warm presence on stage provided a sense of comfort amid the humorous chaos of the March sisters, often caused by Atlee’s Jo March.
“She is really opinionated, she’s headstrong, willful,” Atlee said about her character. Beyond demonstrating these traits in her character, Atlee also helps us understand the feminist and familial motivations behind her character’s choices.
Nneka Moweta ’27 played the ambitious and, at times, selfish Amy March. Moweta’s Amy is a smart and calculated girl who uses societal expectations to her advantage. We so often disregard Amy’s character because she acts in foil to Jo. I found myself deeply invested in Amy’s storyline. Moweta adeptly developed Amy from a young girl frustrated with her sister’s teasing to a young woman frustrated with her sister’s choices.
Crawford Arnow ’27 as Laurie was immediately lovable. His playful energy, endearing facial expressions and caring nature captured the hearts of the audience members. His dynamic with each sister was unique — playful with Jo, soft with Beth, earnest with Meg and loving with Amy — which added to the charming nature of his character.
If Moweta and Atlee’s characters were the battling brains of the March family, then Carigan McGuinn’s ’25 Meg March and Layla Felder’s ’26 Beth March were the heart. McGuinn’s Meg was a kind and hopeless romantic. As an audience member, one hoped alongside her for the love she dreams of. Felder’s Beth embodied sisterly love. Soft-spoken and tender, she was the unifying force of the March family. Felder pulled at your heartstrings, and I couldn’t help but hope that she kept her family together the way she longed to.
I could resonate with each one of the sisters. I don’t think we are supposed to characterize ourselves as a single sister. At some point in our lives, we can relate to all of them.
Over generations, “Little Women” has adopted a variety of mediums — books, musicals, films, plays — resonating with women today by demonstrating the “many different versions of what a strong woman can be,” according to McGuinn. “They all show love and passion for each other and their dreams in different ways.”
I see my own struggles as a woman reflected through this play. Growing up, I often felt like I had to make a choice between being feminine and being respected. Throughout elementary and middle school, I was the only girl in my advanced math courses. I had to mince my words and stifle my interests in order to be taken seriously in class. I grew ashamed of the feminine aspects of myself and tried to hide them in the hope of being respected as an academic.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I went through a revival of my femininity. It all started with a 2019 movie called “Little Women.” I started listening to One Direction, wearing dresses just for fun and letting the people around me know how much I cared about them. I defined my femininity on my own terms.
Yale’s “Little Women” identified the complexity of the transition from girlhood to womanhood in a way that instilled strength and hope in its viewers.
“No character is diminished and no character’s dream is diminished,” Arnow said, “it’s a celebration of individuality.”
Little Women will be playing from Nov. 9 to Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dome.