Archived Voice Articles

Du Mez's Little Women plays at Dordt

By Sally Jongsma

When theater and music major Amy Blok began thinking about what to direct for her required senior show, she knew she wanted to do a musical. But most musicals have huge casts and are three hours long. As she was looking through the literature for something manageable, Professor Jeri Schelhaas received an e-mail from Mark Du Mez (’96), telling her about the recently finished performance of a show he had written—a musical adaptation of Little Women. Du Mez is currently artistic associate at the Chemainus Theatre in British Columbia.

The Dordt performance of Mark Du Mez's adaptation of Little Women was only the second performance of the piece and the first in a

The Dordt performance of Mark Du Mez's adaptation of Little Women was only the second performance of the piece and the first in a "black box" theater.

“I looked at the script and loved it. I’ve always loved the story, Little Women, so to be able to direct a musical version of this story is a wonderful treat,” Blok says.

Using a play written by an alumnus and being able to work with him for two days in early October, only added to the experience. “It was wonderful to get the author’s perspective on the piece,” Blok says.

Du Mez and Blok spent time talking about the characters and staging for the play. Directors and actors usually ask themsleves what the writer is thinking about, says DuMez. “Having the writer available makes that part of the process easier.” Because his visit to campus came very early in the production schedule, he led more general workshops on such things as helping the actors understand the historical setting and the characters.

“Meeting with Mark helped me understand the piece much better,” says Blok.

Most plays that are not published do not have detailed stage directions included—such notes often come from directors, Professor Jeri Schelhaas adds. By visiting campus Du Mez was able to convey more of his intentions and also share what the Chemainus Theatre had learned.

Du Mez’s adaptation of Little Women was written for performance at Chemainus last year. “Theater’s always need Christmas fare,” says Du Mez, who has written other theatrical adaptions of books. Because of the high cost of royalties, a theater that has writers on staff can often commission their own adaptations just as economically.

Mark Du Mez

Mark Du Mez

Du Mez collaborated with composer Jim Hodgkinson to create the musical, performed on the first two weekends in December at Dordt College. Du Mez believes it is a versatile script that can be performed by both professional theaters and high schools.

“I think the lyrics and music are strong,” he says. “It’s not dark—it’s a family piece, a coming of age story. I think we nailed a good sense of family; I’m proud of the relationships we were able to develop.”

“There are many moments that I love in the play,” says Blok. Her favorite is the song that Beth sings to reassure Jo that even though she is going to die, Jo will survive. “It’s a wonderful song that I think a lot of people will be able to relate to.” Blok also likes the fact that the piece is set both during Christmas and during the Civil War. “It combines a wonderful, joyous, and family-filled holiday with the harsh realities of war.”

“It was great to be back,” says Du Mez about his visit in October. In addition to working with the Little Women cast during his visit, Du Mez led an acting workshop and presented a puppet demonstration of a show on which he was currently working, an adaption of Max Lucado’s You Are Mine for Chemainus Theatre’s KidzPlay series.