Adapting to the realities of the pandemic, Vancouver’s Far From The Tree Productions will present a six-part episodic audio-play adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
Set during the American Civil War, Alcott’s classic is the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, the daughters of an army chaplain who befriend the boy next door. Together they wrestle through the peaks and valleys that come with growing up in a time when expectations are exacting, and roles are rigid.
In this Q&A, we check-in with Far From The Tree’s executive director Joelle Wyminga who adapted the novel, to find out more.
The first episode of Little Woman: An Audio Play will be released on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube and other podcasting platforms on November 14 and continue with a new episode each Saturday through December 19. Visit farfromthetreeproductions.com for more information.
This interview has been edited.
Tell us about Little Women. What can audiences expect?
Little Women is the classic and semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott. Our production takes this classic and put it into a fully sensory audio play that everyone can enjoy.
Our sound designer [Tyler Dumoulin] has created beautiful soundscapes that make the world so visceral and has written amazing music to go along with it. Each time I listen to a newly edited version, I am blown away.
This show is full of love, tenderness, sisterly affection, both good and bad, and is the perfect way to warm up during the Christmas season.
What was it about Little Women that got you excited about producing it?
I have loved Little Women ever since I was a kid. I can’t remember the first time I read it, but I can guarantee it was read multiple times.
Like so many other young girls, I related so much to the March sisters. At that time, I definitely understood the first half of the book more as it is all about the girls when they are in the early teens, but now re-reading it, I have really come to understand the March girls as the adults they grow up to be.
Little Women is a story that all can appreciate and relate to. It gives us laughter and hope and a sense of empowerment. I think that is what we all need right now. – Joelle Wyminga
When I was in theatre school, Little Women was one of my absolute dream shows, and I was determined to do it sometime. A few years ago, I seriously started thinking about adapting it, and at that point, it was going to be a stage adaptation.
When the pandemic hit, I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands, so my sister and producing partner, Shelby Wyminga, decided that we wanted to test out a new medium, and we thought that Little Women was the perfect show to do so.
Why this particular play now?
There are so many reasons why I think this play is necessary now. Honestly, a big one is just the hope that so many people need right now.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt pretty lost, as I am sure many others did. I think this story has a lot of beauty and hope that people need to be reminded of right now. We need some laughter, some tears, some love, and some joy. When I started re-reading the book again and doing the research, I really started to fall in love with the Marches again, though I never really stopped.
Though this show was written in 1868 and 1869, so many of the themes, the desire for freedom and respect the girls have, the dreams that they face and the dreams they give up are all still incredibly poignant today.
This is a story about the adventure that is growing up. It is about loving fiercely, following your dreams passionately, and seizing the life that fulfills you, even if it isn’t what you thought.
It has been adapted for this format. Has the story changed?
When I got working on the adaptation, I was really nervous. Because this story is such a classic, so many people have strong feelings, including me, about how it should be told. How on earth was I to please all those people? I felt like I had some pretty big shoes to fill. But as I got working, I did my best to tell the story that was just written on the page originally. That is the story I fell in love with. It was the one I wanted to tell.
Of course, there have had to be some changes, some heartbreaking cuts. If I had kept every single scene in there as it is written, it would be a very long production. I tried to focus on what scenes were pure gold and would tell the story that LMA wanted to tell originally. Once I did that, writing it became easier.
The one thing I did want to try and do was to give context to the original story. I didn’t want to change any characters, or what they wanted, or who they were, but I wanted to allow us a window into the world that was America during the Civil War to have an accurate understanding of these women’s lives.
You are releasing it as an audio play. Was this a direct response to the pandemic?
In short, yes. I wanted to adapt this into a stage version, which I am still in the works of doing, but once the pandemic hit, Shelby and I figured that it was the perfect time to try a new medium with a story loved and wanted to do anyways.
Shelby and I also have a very strong connection to the audio play format. We grew up in rural BC and spent a lot of time driving from town to town with our parents. We always had an audio play or book on tape playing in the car when we would do so. Because of this is and the pandemic really just made sense for it to be an audio play. It really helped fill up my days in isolation and gave me more of a purpose to roll out of bed in the morning.
You have also decided to release the audio play in a series of episodes. Why an episodic release?
We talked a lot about releasing it as one big audio play, but we realized that it would run about three hours once edited once the script was done. We figured that six shorter episodes would be a little more manageable.
We also liked the idea of releasing it slowly to allow people to gear up for the holidays. Since many people won’t be able to spend Christmas with their friends or family, we wanted Little Women to be a little taste of comfort and home that people could enjoy.
Why should audiences tune in to listen to Little Women?
Little Women is a story that all can appreciate and relate to. It gives us laughter and hope and a sense of empowerment. I think that is what we all need right now.