This coming weekend, our Secondary students will present a stage adaptation of another literary classic, Little Women. I was a young boy about ten years of age when I first heard of Louisa May Alcott’s book, and in my uncultured and youthful arrogance, I soundly dismissed this American classic as a “girl’s book,” preferring instead the adventure tales of far off places found in The Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, and Treasure Island. Why pay any heed to (let alone actually enjoy) a book about girls on the cusp of adulthood?
Isn’t it ironic then that, as an adult, I rediscovered this classic when my wife read it and fell in love with its simplicity of a story about growing up? Indeed, it’s “…not exactly the adventures of Odysseus, but…never anything less than exciting,” as the narrator puts it. And while I never actually experienced the adventure of being captured by pirates or marooned on a desert island and relying on my wits to survive, I have experienced the adventure and excitement of growing into an adult.
How can a story about growing up be exciting or adventurous? The answer lies in the fact that growing up is an adventure! Think about the first time you thought you fell in love – with the overwhelming emotions that accompanied telling him or her how you felt. I distinctly remember the fluttering feeling of my heart in my throat right before I confessed how I felt about a girl the first time. I imagine it was a feeling similar to walking the plank and knowing that once you stepped off, there was no going back.
Or what about the responsibility of your first job? Remember the elation of being told you were doing it right? (Or, in my case, the crushing feeling of finding that you could have done better and your employer was disappointed in your performance.) Perhaps your first time away from home was an exciting or terrifying experience. Whatever, these “firsts” are sprinkled throughout our childhood and become defining moments in our lives that shape our character.
Louisa May Alcott’s story is about these very things: love and heartbreak, loss, freedom, and chasing dreams. It is in this way very much an adventure worth reading, for adventurous stories show us characters with strengths and weaknesses who face tests and character-defining moments. Hers is a story of more relatable and realistic adventure than I ever read about at ten years old.
I still love overtly adventurous stories of heroes testing their mettle against overwhelming odds or the mercilessness of nature, but it’s unlikely that I will be in a situation like that. The adventure of growing up however, never truly goes away; the heart-pounding, character-defining firsts just become more and more spread out as we age, but their significance becomes deeper and more influential on others around us. For instance, I vividly remember the emotion of my wedding day, as well as the birth of my son as being “firsts” in the continuing adventure of life.
Being a part of Petra has been yet another first facet of my adventure, which for me was when I directed Great Expectations five years ago on our stage. It was my first true production, complete with all the trimmings of a real theatrical performance. What makes that experience stand out in my mind as special was I got to be a part of the first Petra production for many of this year’s seniors; in fact, it was because of our shared experience of adventure that I chose this particular story.
In a way, Little Women is my homage to the many firsts that I’ve shared with our seniors over the past five and half years, and the many more that lie ahead in their paths. So, in the words of our narrator, Josephine March, “Thank you my friends, for sharing your lives…,” and allow me to dedicate Little Women to my first students.
Purchase your tickets for one of four performances of Little Women: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings (March 1-3) at 7 p.m., or on Saturday, March 2, at 2 p.m.