Seton Hill's 'Little Women' looks beyond the March sisters
Seton Hill University Theatre and Dance Program's spring musical, “Little Women,” is a homecoming for guest director Shawn Sturnick.
Sturnick, a Greensburg Central Catholic High School alum and 1989 Seton Hill graduate, returns to his alma mater from Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea where he has lived for a year after spending five years living and working in Ireland.
He earned a master of fine arts in acting at New York University, has performed as a member of Blue Man Group in New York and Boston and has written several plays produced in Boston and Dublin.
He says the Isle of Man possesses a creative energy that has helped his career.
“From the start, I've found it a terrific place to write,” says Sturnick, originally from Carbon. “Perhaps it's the clean air or gorgeous terrain. There's an excellent film collective on the island which I've joined and have been writing more TV and film scripts. I've just been asked to direct a short film there on my return.”
Directing “Little Women” is a departure from the types of theater pieces that typically interest him, but when he was asked to direct the musical at Seton Hill, Sturnick says he decided he should take on the challenge. One of his goals is to take the production past the sentimental sweetness of sisterly love to explore other family emotions through the vignettes and musical numbers.
The musical adaptation of “Little Women” is based on Louisa May Alcott's classic coming-of-age story about four sisters living in Concord, Mass., during the Civil War. Their father is away from home, serving as a minister in the war. Their mother, Marmee, is struggling to manage the family on her own.
Seton Hill students portraying the March sisters are Gabriella DeCarli of Dubois (Amy); Ariel Watters of Everett (Beth), Megan Henderson of Columbia, Md., (Jo), and Emily Urbaniak of Pittsburgh (Meg).
Henderson says she grew up with Alcott's “Little Women.”
“I was born in Massachusetts, so I always felt a connection with them; I've even been to Alcott's Orchard House in Concord,” she says. “I'm also incredibly close with my sister, so I can really relate to their story and relationships.”
Although the cast is predominately female, there are a few integral male roles, including Laurie, the grandson of a neighbor portrayed by Eric Wielock of Leeper. Wielock's character develops a brother-sister relationship with each of the four March sisters and manages to fall in love with one of them.
“For me, Laurie is an incredible character to portray because he has a boyish charm about him that allows me to tap into that fun ‘inner child' that I don't always get to experience on the stage,” he says.
For Watters, the musical offers an inspiring message that even through change, heartache and success, the love, unity and passion of family always remains the same.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.