'Little Women' Comes to Eastern, Invites a Spectrum of Audiences

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WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/17/2017) Written by Michael Rouleau

The holiday classic "Little Women" will be performed at Eastern Connecticut State University from Nov. 28 - Dec. 3. The second Main Stage theatre production of the academic year, "Little Women" will take place in the DelMonte Bernstein Studio Theater of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. A special "sensory-friendly" performance on Dec. 2 will make the show accessible to audience members with spectrum disorders.

Written by novelist Louisa May Alcott in the 1860s and adapted by playwright Marisha Chamberlain, "Little Women" follows four sisters with a father who is off to war during the Christmas season. The March girls face a number of challenges on their New England home front: Jo desperately wants to fill the void left by the man of the house; Beth struggles with the shyness that keeps her close to home; a secret admirer watches Meg from afar; and no force on earth will keep Amy from her destiny. Themes of love and patience prevail in this festive coming-of-age story.

Eastern's rendition of "Little Women" is meant to be accessible to audience members with spectrum disorders - any mental condition that occurs on a "spectrum" and manifests at different degrees of severity. "Often people with these conditions are unable to attend live theatre," explained Director and Theatre Professor J.J. Cobb.

The Dec. 2 performance at 7:30 p.m., in particular, will be "sensory friendly" so that families of children with autism and other environmental sensitivities feel welcome. Consultants have been guiding the production team through these considerations, which include adjustments to the lighting, sound and seating arrangements.

Unlike most Main Stage productions at Eastern, which take place in the proscenium theatre, "Little Women" will occur in the more intimate venue of the studio theatre. "As a family-driven script, we want audiences to feel embraced by the warmth of the March home, and the studio theatre is more conducive to that," said Cobb, reflecting on the smaller venue with seating that is immediately adjacent to the stage.

The production team visited Orchard House in Concord, MA, Alcott's childhood home. "We were struck by the lack of pretension of the home," said Cobb. "It is, and was, a house built on ideas, not fashion or frivolity. The set is a reflection of the themes of love and patience that weave throughout the script."

Adding to the festive production, carolers will sing and hot cocoa will be offered in the lobby on certain nights. "We are planning for this to be as experiential as possible," added Cobb, "so that the audience feels 'embraced' by the March Family."

"Little Women" will be performed on Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 1-2 at 7:30 p.m.; on Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m.; Dec. 1 at 11 a.m.; and Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. Tickets cost $20. The Dec. 2 show will be sensory friendly. For more information, email: theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu or call (860) 465-5123. To purchase tickets online, visit http://easternct.showare.com/littlewomen/.


Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut's public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut's 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 26 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 40 majors and 65 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 25th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2018 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded "Green Campus" status by the Princeton Review eight years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.