There’s a new twist on an old tradition this holiday season at Stephens College. For the first time in 20 years, students are taking center stage for the annual Victorian holiday celebration, which this season focuses on the exceptional women of the March family portrayed in “Little Women,” penned by Louisa May Alcott.

Students are not only starring in “March Family Christmas” but also taking the lead behind the stage, serving as director, choreographer and stage manager. To top it off, theatre arts major Heather Manning ’18 wrote the script based on the novel.

A March Family Christmas posterBut don’t worry; this charming adaptation includes all the lovely Christmas carols, dancing and treats that audiences have come to expect.

The idea to rethink “A Dickens Victorian Christmas” started with Trent Rash, assistant professor of music, who had played the role of Charles Dickens since 2008.

“It began to bother me that the main character was a man when I had all these talented young women around me at a women’s college,” he said. “I wanted to give them more of an opportunity to be featured.”

Besides that, Rash thought it would be useful to develop another holiday script that could be traded off with the Dickens’ story so students had the opportunity to participate in two different Victorian productions during their stint at Stephens.

Rash approached Manning about a year ago about writing a script based on Alcott’s beloved novel. With two books already professionally published—the first when she was 16—Manning jumped at the chance to take on an adaptation and immersed herself in all things “Little Women.”

“I read the book and instead of listening to music I would normally listen to throughout the day, I listened to the “Little Women” original Broadway cast recording,” Manning said. “I also watched a few different movie adaptations of the book.”

From there, Manning crafted an outline, which she wrote into the script and reviewed with Rash in the spring. By fall, the script was ready for a read-through with acting students. Eventually, Rash added music and the 60-minute production was ready for the Historic Senior Hall Parlors.

The story follows Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy as they try to keep up their spirits during the holidays while their father is away at war. The show opens with Alcott, played by Manning (who is also in the ensemble), greeting the audience and a guest appearance from a favorite character of past Victorian Christmases. As always, the characters will interact with the audience and there will be children in the ensemble.

“I think it’s going to be the perfect transition into this new production for the audiences,” Manning said. 

Other students involved behind the scenes include Winona Wiley ’19 as director, Madisen Nielsen ’18 as choreographer and Lauren Douglas ’19 as stage manager.

Rash is thrilled to have so many student playing integral roles with this year’s production. 

“It’s amazing how talented and creative the young women who attend Stephens College are,” he said. “They really do add a lot of their voice to this production, and I love that.”

Rash believes the new show is the perfect kick-off to the holiday season. 

“It allows people to step back in time and experience Christmas in such an idyllic setting, the Victorian era,” he said. “I think this gives the event such heart and warmth. People are looking for that during the holidays—and we all need it!”

Pictured above: The ensemble for “March Family Christmas” practice at Senior Hall. From left to right, Lauren Douglas ’19, Hope Pena ’19, Julia Bailey ’20, Heather Manning ’18 and Sydney Sutherland ’20.


March Family Christmas

Performances are 7:30 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday, Dec. 3-6, in the Historic Senior Hall Parlors, 100 Waugh St. Get tickets now, or contact the Box Office at (573) 876-7199 or  

Tags : School of Creative & Performing Arts, Theatre

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