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Monday, April 3, 2017

Taking On An Iconic Character with Laura Barron

Second year graduate assistant Laura Barron, who you may recognize from our Fall production of MARISOL, is now tackling the lead role of Jo March in our current production of LITTLE WOMEN. Laura took some time out of her insanely busy schedule to discuss her process of building the character of Jo March. Get to know more about Jo and Laura here:  

Laura Barron as Jo March. Photo by Paola Nogueras.
Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a story for the ages, it has inspired and been loved by readers for generation after generation. That love stems from an overwhelming connection to the characters in the story and the ability to relate to them on many levels. Alcott's main character, Jo March, is no exception. She is revered by many as a favorite character in literature. She was not like many women of her time, outgoing, outspoken, driven by her passions, and yet similar in that she is deeply invested in her family. As an actress, it was intimidating to know how important and loved Jo is as a character, to women and men alike. How would I be able to embody the Jo they picture in their head, or bring her spirit to life? Instead of letting that overwhelm me, throughout the process I tried to have fun with the role, and bring my own spirit and passions into the mix. I stayed grounded knowing that it's not the exact Jo that Alcott put on the page, but a re-imagining of her by the writers of the musical. The material I needed to learn in a short amount of time was so vast, that I almost didn't have time to stop and worry about if I was being the "Jo March" readers would expect. With that being said, I loved the rehearsals in which we were able to do character work and dig a little deeper into finding a balance in the role that would be a good fit for me.

The four March sisters and their Marmee.
Photo by Paola Nogueras.
Another challenge I faced was understanding the bonds of sisterhood, from the strength of the love that is shared between them, to the utter chaos that might ensue when they don't get along. I grew up with two older brothers, so while sibling rivalry and love still exist between us, I have come to learn through the process that it's not quite the same as having sisters. My cast mates and director Valerie Joyce helped me gain a better understanding of what having sisters might be like, through their personal experiences. It was fun to have new "sisters" in my life for this process. 

At Villanova, I have the unique opportunity to work in the costume shop while getting my Masters. I have an Assistantship in costumes and have helped cut and sew different garments for the show since last Fall. We began making petticoats and hoop skirts back in November and we haven't stopped. Stepping out onto the stage in something I helped make is an absolute joy. I have the opportunity to sing one of the most challenging songs I've had to tackle in a show, "Astonishing", while wearing a top I sewed. I am extremely proud of the work the whole costume crew has done under the direction and guidance of our extremely talented cutter draper, Jenn Lanyon, and show designer and shop coordinator, Janus Stefanowicz. I have learned so much from both of them and can't wait for audiences to see not only the costumes, but all of the design elements brought to life by the hardworking, talented, prop and set shops at Villanova. 

Laura Barron as Jo March. Photo by Paola Nogueras.
Stepping into the shoes of Jo March became a little easier when leaning on others throughout the process. The support of the entire cast and crew has helped me immensely, from the dressers who
help me change over 8 times, sometimes in under 40 seconds, to the stage management team who helped with lines and are always ready with props and kind words, to a cast full of such talented and amazing scene partners, the dramaturg who helped us step into the time period of Alcott's book, to the music directors that are always helping us to sound our best, and a director who has an overarching vision that put all the pieces together. I am inspired by and proud of the work everyone has put in to bring this show to life.

LITTLE WOMEN runs at Villanova Theatre from March 28-April 9 at Vasey Hall. Tickets are $21-$25 with discounts available for students, alumni, faculty/staff, and senior citizens. For tickets or information please visit www.villanovetheatre.org or call the Box Office at 610-519-7474.

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