Far From The Tree actors talk about what Little Women means to them


Row 1:
Jenaya Barker- Ensemble member. Joelle Wyminga – Amy March and Script adaptor, Tyler Dumoulin – sound designer, editor, and composer, Shelby Wyminga – Jo March and director. Kirsty Provan – Meg March 

Row 2:
Zach Running Coyote – Laurie, Kerri Norris – Marmee, Charlotte Denton – Beth March 

Row 3:
John Voth – Friedrich Bhaer, Matthew Simmons – John Brooke, Aunt March, and a few other small character parts

Interview with the actors:

  1. Describe to me the process you all went through in deciding to do an audio play. Why did you choose Little Women for your audio play?

Joelle (Amy) The idea to do an audio play first came to us when Shelby and I participated in a 24-hour Audio Play festival at the beginning of the pandemic with our Alma Mater. At that festival, we were put into groups and tasked with creating an audio play and putting it on in the space of 24 hours. Both of us have been very interested in voice acting and have a long history of listening to audio plays. We grew up in a very rural community in northern British Columbia and spent a lot of time listening to books on tape and audio plays during our long car rides between towns. These two things, along with the sudden free time we had amid a pandemic, inspired us to start creating something. But what should we do? I have loved Little Women for a very long time and was already in the beginning stages of adapting it for the stage, which is still in the works, but when Shelby suggested doing it as an audio play, it just made sense! It would both give us something to work on, and it would give me an excuse to really work on this script. We’ve known for a while that we would do Little Women in some capacity with our company. Far From the Tree Productions is all about creating honest theatre that explores complex human relationships, particularly those bonds between family, whether defined by blood, choice, or circumstance, and after all, we are sisters ourselves, so Little Women made a lot of sense for us! Once the decision was made, I spent hours upon hours researching, reading, and adapting the script into what we have now!

  1. Tell me something about the actresses portraying the March sisters and Marmee — names, experience, connection to the story. I’d love some anecdotes from them as to their relationship with the story. I would also like to hear about your connection to the story, when you first read it, how many times you’ve read it, your favorite character, etc. I’d also love to know how each of you about Jo rejecting Laurie and then marrying Professor Bhaer.       

Joelle (Amy) For myself, I also play Amy March as well as writing the adaptation, and I have connected to this story in many ways throughout the years. I can’t remember how old I was when I first read it, but I was pretty hooked right away. I read it multiple times growing up and each time I did, I felt like I understood and related to a new aspect of the story. I think that is one of the wonderful things about this novel. It seems like as you grow up, you get to discover something new and relate to a new chapter in the March girls’ lives. When I was little, like most girls, I very much related to Jo. I wanted to be a writer for a while, my friends actually called me Jo (short for Joelle of course!), and I had no desire to fit in or conform to the world around me. Now, as I have read it, and as I have been able to come at the story as an actor, I have found so much of myself in Amy. I am also a younger sister of someone who is very similar to myself, just like Amy and Jo, I have gone through all the feelings of inadequacy that Amy does. I understand what it feels like to be treated like a child, and I am very willing to see the world for what it is, warts and all. As I grew up I was able to understand the struggles of love and loss, desires for more, and feeling lost in the world that each of the sisters face. I suspect as I continue to grow I will find more in Marmee that I relate to as well. It is truly magical to have a story that can do all that. Because of this, I don’t feel like I could ever pick a favourite character. I found when we were recording that it changed depending on what scene we were doing. I could never settle on one!

In terms of the Jo/Laurie/Bhaer relationship, I have had many thoughts over the years, as I am sure so many people have, and I don’t think there is ever one right answer. That’s what makes a good story. I never believed that Jo and Laurie were meant to be together. I saw how much they fought, how different their views of the world were, and how their stubbornness would not allow for the compromise that is needed in a marriage. In comparison, the relationship between Amy and Laurie is one of the most loving, respectful, and beautiful portrayals of a marriage I have ever read. Amy is strong enough to call Laurie out when he needs it, and Laurie respects Amy enough to support her values and opinions. He even says that she is the ruler of their marriage most of the time. I love them so much! In terms of the marriage between Jo and Friedrich, I would have been incredibly happy with Jo remaining a literary spinster in the end as LMA wanted. However, LMA created a character in Bhaer that was so perfect for Jo that I cannot help but smile when I think of them. Bhaer provides Jo with the intellectual stimulus that she needs, and he is able to shower her with the love that she craves, even if she struggles to admit it to herself. One of my favourite lines is when Jo is talking to Marmee. She describes her heart as being elastic. It is never full and always wants more. She never thought that she would desire love in that way, but once again we see as Jo grows and matures she is able to recognize this and express it.  I relate to that. When I was young, I never thought I would want or need anyone. Now, as I grow I understand that need for love and affection. It doesn’t make you any less strong to desire love. 

Shelby Wyminga (Jo) I had read the book years ago when my sister and I were kids. Our parents always read us chapters before bed, Narnia, Anne Of Green Gables, Sherlock Holmes, and the like. But since then, I hadn’t had much context for the story until more recently. I remembered Meg’s hair being burned and I remembered Beth’s death. For some reason, the loss really stuck with me. But approaching this production was fun because it had been so long since I explored the story, I felt like it was the first time. Like I had totally fresh eyes and no preconceived notions of how it SHOULD be. As an actor, that’s such a gift!

One of the things I love about Jo March is that she’s such an every woman. She’s extraordinarily relatable. Most women I know who are fans of the story see themselves in Jo, despite being from many different backgrounds and having different ways of existing in the world. This leads to people having VERY strong opinions about who she SHOULD be. There are those who ADAMANTLY believe she should have ended up with Laurie, others who argue Bhaer is her one true love, many who believe she’s an early example of queer representation in literature, and still others who believe she was meant to end up “a literary spinster” had LMA really gotten her way. I believe the beauty of Jo is that she can be all of these things. I personally sway toward the belief that LMA intended her to be single, but there are also beautiful things about her relationship with Friedrich that really work. In my performance, I tried to approach Jo without judgment and played her in such a way that whatever a particular audience member wishes to be true of her can be.  

Kerri Norris (Marmee) I have read the book a number of times and seen every adaptation on film. I’ve enjoyed sharing the story with my daughters and my husband through this process. 

[Regarding Jo rejecting Laurie for Professor Bhaer]I think that changes with time. When I was young reading the book I wanted Laurie and Jo to get together so much. It was disappointing and it felt like I couldn’t believe in him loving Amy. As I got older I think I understood. Reading back she only ever loved him like a brother and a friend. They wouldn’t have been happy. He wanted a family, not Jo specifically. She brought him into the fold and they could speak honestly. But one would always be lesser or more powerful even though that may shift from time to time. Behr was right for Jo because they were equals, both free to create a new relationship and way of being together since they had broken out of the strictures society played on them. 

Reaction to Jo rejecting Laurie and marrying Bhaer?
Charlotte Denton (Beth). I say you go, girl.

  1. Where do you get your funding? How long did it take after securing the funding to write and produce this play?

Joelle (Amy) We have actually done this entire show with no budget! We were able to work with some amazing artists who volunteered their time to us. Each person we asked already had, or was willing to get, access to recording equipment to use from home. Our editor, sound designer, and composer is my brother in law, Tyler Dumoulin, and has spent hours and hours working on this show for free. It was really amazing to see how all of our friends and artists who we love came together to support us in this project. The little money we did spend for marketing purposes all came from donations that were made to our company. I really cannot express how grateful I am for all those who have donated to us!

  1. Have any of the actresses explored more about Louisa May Alcott, whether it be reading more about her life, other books by her because they participated in this play?

Joelle (Amy) I, unfortunately, have not had time to read any more of Alcott’s works while working on this show. I do plan on it as I will be continuing to write a stage adaptation of Little Women that can be produced when the pandemic is not a factor anymore. I was able to do some research on LMA herself and her life when she was writing Little Women, as well as her life after Little Women.

Kerri Norris (Marmee) I read a lot of articles, especially one about how this book was read by both boys and girls before things were shuffled into ‘boy books’ and ‘girl books’ [Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why it Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux]. I also read a bunch of the research about the letters between LMA and her mother to get a better understanding of Marmee.

Any other research you have done?
Charlotte Denton (Beth) I got to go to her house when I was younger, and I remember being so charmed. I wanted to wake up and live inside such a quaint cottage.

Visit the Far From The Tree website for links to the play on Spotify, YouTube, Apple, and Google.

The link can also be found on this website in the right-hand column.

 

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