After four years of constant reading, study, writing and pondering on one family, I think I understand now how actors prepare for their roles, and the subsequent consequences of their immersion into their characters.
Taking on the Louisa persona
I’m acquainted with a couple of people (Jan Turnquist and Marianne Donnelly) who, as actresses, take on the role of Louisa May Alcott to share with school children and adults alike in various educational venues. They dress like Louisa, walk as she might have walked, speak like they imagine she would have spoken. They share her stories, her feelings, her passions, her humor, her pathos and every audience is treated to a living, breathing Louisa.
It makes me wonder just how much of Louisa they have integrated into themselves. I’ve emailed them to ask and will share their answers with you as they come.
Who is your literary heroine?
Are you immersed in Louisa? Or perhaps Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson or Charlotte or Emily Bronte? How about Margaret Mitchell? Do you find yourself becoming like your literary heroine?
While I am no actor, I certainly know now what it is like to immerse yourself into a character and to have that character become a part of you. For me it is not only Louisa but Lizzie as well.
Channeling Lizzie Alcott
I’ve read Lizzie’s letters (some of which I have shared with you, see previous posts) and I’ve read family letters about Lizzie. I know of her suffering and struggles. I know how much her family and friends loved her and why. And I find myself wishing to emulate her.
Recently I had to go into the hospital for a minor surgical procedure (which ended well). With each person that I encountered, from the nurses to the anesthesiologist to the surgeon himself, I found myself channeling Lizzie, working to be as kind as I imagined she had been. I tried to be of good cheer, using humor to diffuse fear as I imagined she might have done. It came as naturally as breathing. I found her presence inside of me to be a great comfort.
This was not the first time I had channeled Lizzie while in the hospital. Last year after a car crash I found myself in the ER, doing the same thing.
Now I find I am inadvertently channeling Louisa as well, in my writing.
Loss, grief, transformation … and Louisa
The book I am working on to be published sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 is on loss, grief and transformation. As this has been the story of my life since my mother passed away four years ago, I find easy to write about the subject. I do not fear loss or grief and know that transformation is life-giving and empowering, filling my heart with joy and gratitude.
Louisa’s mostmemorable writing
I always found Louisa’s writing on this same subject to be her most brilliant. Poignant, hopeful, gritty, honest and moving, her work has resonated with me and consoled me. Some of her most memorable writing is about noble John Suhre’s death in Hospital Sketches. Generations of girls and women have wept openly over the death of good Beth March in Little Women. I found great comfort in Christie Devon’s experience of her dead husband David in Work A Story of Experience when a breeze blew past his flute, creating music and a sense of his presence in the room.
Grieving through reading and writing
I only recently realized that I write about loss, grief and transformation as a way of grieving over my mother. I never cried at length over losing her, never felt despair, never felt lost. I always wondered what was wrong with me that I didn’t grieve in the usual way much as I loved her. I now know that I am working through my grief in my writing.
Louisa did the same when she lost Lizzie. She was intimately involved in Lizzie’s care, staying up all night to give her sister the strength she needed to endure her suffering. When Lizzie died Louisa was relieved that her sister was “well at last,” past her pain into a new and glorious eternal existence. After an initial spell of despair, Louisa admitted that she didn’t miss Lizzie as much as she thought she would indicating that her sister helped her spiritually. Louisa worked through her grief in her writing. She as much as admits it in Hospital Sketches (get quote). There is no doubt that Beth March is in fact, the perfected Lizzie.
My expert guide
Louisa worked through her grief in her writing and she is teaching me how to do the same. I am channeling the writing I admire most from my literary heroine and it gives me shivers to recognize that connection. My own humble work is a mere shadow of Louisa’s but it is comforting to know that I am following an expert guide.
- What literary figure do you admire?
- How have you immersed yourself in her life (or his)?
- What traits have you inadvertently taken on?
Are you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
Subscribe to our email list and never miss a post!
Facebook Louisa May Alcott is My Passion
More About Louisa on Twitter