Rialto Players to present Little Women

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published November 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

The Rialto Players will present Little Women beginning Friday at the Rialto Theatre, 215 E. Broadway in Morrilton. Cast members include, seated, from the left, Kathy Busch as Meg, Avery Croswell as Jo, Carolyn Hopkins as Beth, Sarah DuVall as Amy and Jessica Rohlman as Marmee; and standing, from the left, Karen Caig as Aunt Carrol, Jeannie Denniston as Aunt March, Sharon DuVall as Sally Moffatt and Ruth Minick as Hannah.

MORRILTON — Four young actors will take the stage of the Rialto Theater to portray the March sisters in Little Women, a play adapted by Kristin Laurence from the book by the same name written by Louisa May Alcott.

The Rialto Players will present the classic tale of a family’s trials and tribulations while Father is away in the Civil War. The performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Dec. 6 and 7, with a matinee set for 2 p.m. Dec. 8.

A dinner-theater performance will be offered Dec. 7, with dinner served at 6. The dinner menu includes lasagna, ham, buttered corn, salad and rolls, with pecan pie and old-fashioned oatmeal cake for dessert. Meal tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance. Seating is limited to 80, and dinner tickets will not be available at the door.

General-admission tickets to all performances are $10 each.

Tickets may be purchased by calling Shawnna Bowles at the Rialto at (501) 772-3627, going online at the www.rialtoartscenter.com, or arriving in person at the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce or at the ticket booth before performances.

The local production is under the direction of Cathy Hoelzeman-Bond.

“At the Rialto, we’ve been very blessed over the years to have a wonderful group of talented young female actors in our productions,” she said. “Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to direct Little Women for these young ladies while they were actually the ages of the sisters in the book, 12 to 16.

“My girls are getting the chance to play four of the most well-known and beloved characters in all of American literature, and I am thrilled for them to have this opportunity. And hopefully, they will take away with them a knowledge of what stage acting is all about to use throughout their lives in the theater.”

The play, which will be presented in three acts, features an all-female cast.

“After reading a number of stage adaptations of the book, the one we selected by Kristin Laurence, with an all female cast, seemed to capture the real heart of the March sisters’ story more than any of the others,” Hoelzeman-Bond said.

The play recounts one year in the life of the March family, from the Christmas when Marmee leaves to visit her sick husband and Jo sells her hair to help pay for the trip, to the next Christmas when the family awaits the return of Father March.

The cast includes the following:

• Kathy Busch portrays Meg, the oldest of the four March sisters.

This marks the first time Kathy has performed with the Rialto Players. She is the 16-year-old daughter of Dr. Charles and Sue Busch of Russellville and is a sophomore at Russellville High School, where she is a member of the forensics team, choir and the theater program. She also takes dance and voice lessons and plays the piano.

Kathy has been involved with theater for “eight or nine years,” she said. “I’ve been in plays with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and at Russellville High School. I want to make acting my career.”

Kathy describes herself as the “polar opposite” of her character in Little Women.

“Meg is the oldest sister in her family; I am the youngest,” she said. “She is very motherly to her sisters. I’ve never had the opportunity to mother anyone. Meg is very domestic; I’m not interested in that set of skills.”

• Avery Croswell plays Jo, the tomboy writer of the March family.

Avery, 14, lives on Petit Jean Mountain with her parents, Jeff and Sarah Croswell. Avery is a ninth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Morrilton, where she is active in the theater department and is the freshman class treasurer, a junior high cheerleader and a member of Key Club and the Robo Rebels Lego League. She is also president of the Petit Jean Mountaineers 4-H Club. Avery has appeared in several Rialto Players productions, including Greater Tuna and A Christmas Story.

Avery said of her character, “[Jo] is very similar to me.

“Jo likes to read and write short stories. I like to read. I’ve read more books than I can count, and I’ve written short stories for school competitions. Jo’s very outspoken, and I am, too.”

• Carolyn Hopkins appears as Beth, the shy sister who plays the piano.

Carolyn is the 12-year-old daughter of John and Patricia Hopkins of Solgohachia. She is a seventh-grader at Morrilton Junior High School, where she is active in choir and band. She plays the piano and flute and enjoys reading.

Carolyn has attended the Rialto Kids Kamp twice and was in the Rialto Players’ production of A Christmas Story.

“Beth is very shy and likes to knit and sew,” Carolyn said of her character in the play. “She also plays the piano. That’s my favorite quality about her.

“I am a little like her. At times, I am shy, and I love music.”

• Sarah DuVall is Amy, the baby sister of the family.

Sarah is the 11-year-old daughter of Mary Lynn and Virgil DuVall of Atkins. She is in the sixth grade at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Morrilton, where she plays volleyball, softball and basketball and is a Quiz Bowl and Lego League team member. She is also involved in the drama club and 4-H and plays the piano.

“My character is really into art,” Sarah said. “And she’s just a little spoiled. I am not like her at all.”

Sarah first appeared at the Rialto as an extra in A Christmas Story. She has also acted in productions at her school.

• Jessica Rohlman plays Marmee, the March girls’ mother.

Rohlman is a graduate of Morrilton High School and attended Arkansas Tech University and the University of Central Arkansas. She has a Master of Science degree in health education and teaches health at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.

She has appeared in several Rialto Players’ productions, including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Rented Christmas and Death by Chocolate.

“I like playing the part of the mother of these young girls,” Rohlman said. “She is an authoritative figure but also very understanding.

“I’m very picky about the parts I audition for. I haven’t been in a play for a few years. I like plays that touch the audience, and this one does.”

• Ruth Minick portrays Hannah, the March family’s housekeeper.

Minick has appeared in several plays at the Rialto, including Rex’s Exes, Dashing Through the Snow and Harvey. She studied theater at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and holds an associate degree in business from Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla. She lives in Russellville and works in the financial department of Grace Manufacturing Co.

“Hannah is very busy taking care of the girls, making sure they have food and clothing,” Minick said of her character. “I like my character; she is a lot of fun.”

• Jeannie Denniston appears as Aunt March.

Denniston is a local attorney and has been active with the Rialto Players since 2005, appearing most recently in Greater Tuna. She just completed a role in the UACCM production of Kindertransport.

She was active in theater in college and has served on the board of directors of the Arts Council of Conway County.

“Aunt March is mean and has a lot of money,” Denniston said. “I certainly am not typecast.

“This is a good show,” she said. “All four of the sisters are very talented.”

• Sharon DuVall is Sally Moffat, one of Amy’s rich friends.

Sharon is the 14-year-old daughter of Mary Lynn and Virgil DuVall of Atkins. She in a ninth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Morrilton, where she is a member of the Lego League, 4-H, the Quiz Bowl, the Key Club and the chess club. She also takes piano.

“I play the rich girl next door,” Sharon said of her character. “She’s stuck up and very glitzy. She’s a diva.

“I am nothing like her. I hate wearing skirts and having to fix my hair. I think playing someone opposite of you brings out a whole different side of you. It’s fun.”

• Karen Caig plays as Aunt Carrol.

Caig, who lives in the Overcup community, is making her debut with the Rialto Players. She has been in several productions at UACCM, where she teaches English. She appeared with Denniston in Kindertransport at UACCM.

Caig has an associate degree in theater from Kilgore College, a bachelor’s degree in German with a minor in Spanish from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in English with an emphasis in comparative literature from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Her character and Aunt March are sisters.

“She’s the pushy, bossy one, and I’m the dingbat,” Caig said of her character. “I follow her everywhere she goes.

“I’m having a good time with this play.”

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