top of page

Why Little Women? Part 1

The Making of Little Women

I am not one to ascribe major directional shifts in my life to coincidence. So, after retiring and feeling free of commitments and the daily challenges of working with adolescents, I was a bit stunned to be confronted with the question put to me, “Will you teach classes at Nova High? Oh, by the way, we are committed to doing an all-school musical and we would love you to direct it.” I don’t believe there could have been any stronger hook in the universe to convince me to reconsider my retirement than the word, “musical.” But why?

To understand this, I have to share a bit about my prior experiences and associated revelations. The reason I am a Waldorf teacher today is directly connected to my having met Waldorf children and the impact they had on me. Their confidence, openness, and sincerity were striking. When I began to attend Waldorf events, the plays in particular made a huge impression on me. These children had developed capacities which were foreign to me. It wasn’t just the ability to memorize lines, or even the confidence to stand on stage in front of a huge audience, although these were impressive. What I eventually realized was that plays could be a powerful expression of the creative act – an act which brings imagination and inspiration into being for all to experience. These plays touched me very deeply; they were works of art and beauty. But I’ve come to realize that the art and beauty I experienced were not just due to the actual performances themselves, however wonderful. This revelation became clear the first time I ventured into the realm of producing a musical with my first eighth grade class.

In endeavoring to present a quality musical production, I was naive in thinking it would be just a step up from the prior plays we had done. Something entirely new was needed from the students and the teacher. Plays up to this point had been mainly a creative act of the teacher – the director. With a full-scale musical, we are asking (cajoling, challenging) the students to own the creative act. New capacities need to be developed, and the process requires an immense effort and commitment over an extended period of time. We don’t learn to play the piano in a month – and to progress, it must be practiced every day. Similarly, learning to sing and act at a high level is a muti-layered process that takes daily repetition.

Beyond developing individual skills comes the magic of working together. Acting requires taking on another’s thoughts and feelings. We become our character and feel their joy and sorrow. For an adolescent, this is the most difficult capacity to develop. Can I live into my character so he or she becomes real for me. The moment I can do this, the other actors on stage are impacted – their feelings are touched. One student achieving a new level takes all the others with them. The opposite is unfortunately true as well. One student who is still learning their lines holds back all the others who are living into their roles.

The next level of magic comes with choreography. People are often amazed and wonder at how I developed all the amazing choreography of a musical. While some credit is certainly deserved, these students are an integral part of developing the choreography. As they progress in bringing their character to life, their reactions and expressions on stage take on a whole new dimension. They are not coming to class and just being asked to learn the choreography which I or another has invented. They are being asked to be a creative force in making the drama real. They are learning to tap into inspiration and weave together their imaginations. This is a social task and requires extreme vulnerability. Our hearts are touched over and over. We laugh and cry together, feel the joy and sorrow. We grow closer and it changes us all. When they have done their work and it is brought to the stage, the audience is transfixed and taken into the world of the drama – the imagination of the actors.

This all requires building upon the prior day’s work, as a house must be built upon a foundation. Or, with baking a loaf of bread, the bread’s success relies upon a living force leavening the dough. It can’t be rushed or steps skipped (or classes missed) without compromising the result.

Small compilation from Fiddler on the Roof.

Similarly, each student is leavened. There is a force at work upon each of us as we struggle together, fail over and over, and at last find our way through to something new – a new awareness, feeling, or capacity. The gift to me as the director (and why I teach in my retirement), is being witness to each student, watching as they become more than they were. They will never be the same – this is the nature of transformation.

It is fitting that one of the songs in this musical describes this transformation and the gift we offer to each other in the making of Little Women.

If you could find it in your heart,

If you could love me as I love you,

If only you'd care while we are apart -

Then I would be rich.

I would be wise.

I would be more,

More than I am.

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page