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For first time director, ‘Little Women’ at CdA Summer Theatre offers a chance to do something unique with an old favorite

July 21, 2022 Updated Thu., July 21, 2022 at 3:35 p.m.

An experienced actor, dancer and choreographer in her third season with Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, Megan Smith is officially adding directing to her repertoire with “Little Women.”

Over the years, in almost any production she’s participated in, Smith’s involvement has followed a somewhat similar progression.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of amazing directors and, most of the time what has happened is, I will audition for a company, get cast as an actor, and then they’ll say, ‘Hey, do you want to come back and choreograph for us?’ ” she said. “And then while I’m choreographing, the director usually ends up saying, ‘Hey, can you fix this thing for me? Hey, can you look at this for me?’ And I’ll end up sort of stepping into this assistant or associate director role.”

In other words, she’s had a fair bit of experience directing, even if she’s never had the actual job title.

“But this is the first time where I’m directing and choreographing the whole thing – just me,” she said. “And that’s very exciting.”

Directing and choreographing a more dance-heavy show – “Mamma Mia,” for example – might have proved too demanding, she said. But “Little Women” is very much in her wheelhouse.

The show, which opens Friday, is based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name. The musical follows the March sisters – Meg, the eldest; Jo, the free-spirited writer; Beth, the thoughtful musician; and Amy, the romantic – and their beloved mother, Marmee. Set during the Civil War in Concord, Massachusetts, a story for each sister unfolds as Jo learns to tell her own.

Telling a story that has already been retold in several adaptations – including the 1994 and 2019 films starring Winona Ryder and Saorise Ronan respectively as Jo – is no easy task, Smith explained.

“Little Women is so well known and so many people have their own specific thing that they love about it,” she said. “And there are lots of versions of ‘Little Women’ out there and I love pretty much all of them. But those already exist.”

From day one, she made a point of telling the cast and design team that the object was never to recreate someone else’s adaptation of the story.

“One of the things that is so exciting about live theater is that this conglomeration of people in this cast, this set of designers, this crew, this creative team … this combination of individuals will never exist again – so we have an opportunity to tell a story that is unique.

“It doesn’t matter how talented someone is – there’s no way that someone can live up to the memory” of one of the many film adaptations.

“So (finding) what is unique and special about this group of people – that’s a really high focus for me,” she said.

Smith hopes the production inspires audiences to reach out.

“I hope … that they see this story of forgiveness and family love and that inspires them to go reach out to those connections that maybe they haven’t connected with in a while,” she said.

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