A good story never ages. Certain themes simply live forever — like struggling to form an individual identity, dealing with societal inequality, avoiding creeps, and grappling with the passage from childhood to adulthood, to name a few. In her renowned novel, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott tells of how four sisters were affected by these issues while living during the American Civil War. Although a lot has changed for women since 1865, four sisters in this millennium still experience much of the same turmoil, love, hate and discomfort as the March sisters did.
Fast forward a century and a half to 2014, and another fierce writer took inspiration from both Little Women and HBO’s acclaimed series Girls to produce a mashup satire called Women. Chiara Atik’s award-winning play premiered in NYC two years ago and has finally come to the 6ix! Women follows the same sisters — Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth — and puts a witty modern-day spin on their troubles, inspired by Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna of Girls. The play will run from June 30 to July 9 at the Annex Theatre as park of Toronto’s Fringe Festival.
And if the ladies’ satirical Twitter account is anything to go by, you will leave with no ass, because you laughed it right off.
We had the chance to chat with Seanna Kennedy, the play’s director, and Rafaela Lewis, the producer (who also play Jo March).
Without giving too much away, could you give us a snapshot of each of the March sisters?
Rafi: You’ve got Jo, who’s the independent writer. Meg, the oldest who’s really excited to get married and really wants to start having babies. Then we have Amy, who wants to be pretty and make it as an artist. And Beth, who doesn’t really have much of a future!
How do you think the play will resonate with women today?
Seanna: What’s interesting is that while a lot of things have changed — like slavery and voting — other experiences, like grappling with your life and what it means to go from being a child to a woman, remain similar for women. You’ll find that a lot of themes resonate today.
Rafi: It’s the story of a family wanting to leave home. Each individual wants to figure out their own future but once they get there, they realize that things actually weren’t too bad to start off with. Realizing that what you thought you wanted isn’t what you expect, that’s quite a timeless struggle.
Rafi: Exactly! Millennials are going to see this play and think it’s the story of their lives. Parents and their grandparents are going to see it because they want to connect with them and understand what they’re going through.
What a wonderful perspective. Who did the casting and what was that like?
Seanna: Rafi and I cast it together. We held auditions, saw a lot of awesome people and ended up with an absolutely incredible cast.
Rafi: It’s a lot of reading chemistry. We had ten Megs, ten Beths then we mixed and matched the actresses until we really got that sister chemistry. That’s what really drives the play — the chemistry is integral.
Is representation important to you?
Rafi: Yes it is! We have a multi-ethnic cast, which is really exciting.
Seanna: We didn’t set out specifically to achieve that but it happened naturally and we’re very pleased about it.
Rafi: Yes, it’s something we keep ourselves engaged in, and it ended up being great!
How did you acquire your costumes?
Seanna: We have a costume designer and she is amazing. She’s working on some thrifting and some renting. It’s a really interesting challenge to costume the girls not in full 1865 garments because to have everyone running around in hoop skirts would take away from the message. But finding something that has that feel while also looking like it’s filtered through Girls. We have a very specific style profile for each of the characters.
Women did really well in NYC and LA, do you think it’s going to be just as well received in Toronto?
Seanna: I think it is! Everyone I’ve mentioned it to since I knew I was working on this project has said, ‘Oh my gosh, when? Give me the details I have to see that, it sounds hilarious.’ So hopefully all those people follow through and actually buy their tickets!
Rafi: I think there’s a really good buzz going on in the indie scene here. A lot of people have reached out to cross-promote so there’s definitely engagement with the show. We also have a strong social media presence so that’ll help people follow through on their interest and remind them when tickets go on sale! A lot of our generation are procrastinators… the follow through on that initial interest is really what’s going to make the show a hit!
How has engagement been with your satirical Twitter account?
Rafi: It was our social media manager, Katie Meyer, who came up with this brilliant idea — merging Little Women with technology to really tell the story of the March sisters like a live feed. On the account, Jo is trying to get her book published and spamming Roundhouse. Amy’s trying to get a new dress and figure out the price of limes. It’s integrating the story of Little Women with what’s happening today — a lot of fun and a great way for our audience to engage with the play and be exposed to the tone before seeing the show. A teaser if you will!
Finally, what do you hope people take away from Women?
Seanna: A lot of laughs! I think they’re going to spend most of the time laughing. But also reflect on how interesting it is — the story of those four archetypal girls growing into little women.
Rafi: I feel like people are going to exit with their friends and be like ‘You’re Jo! You’re Meg!’…
Seanna: The character are so strong and identifiable, ridden with a lot compassion so you really do fall in love with each of them!
Have a look at the teaser video below, and grab your tickets!