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WKU Theatre and Music departments present ‘Little Women,’ first maskless production since the onset of COVID-19

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As pandemic restrictions ease nationwide, Western Kentucky University’s Department of Theatre and Dance is partnering with the Department of Music to present Little Women one month after the university dropped its campus-wide mask mandate.

A musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, the production tells the story of sisters Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy March. The show chronicles the sisters as they come of age in Civil War-era New England.

Bronson Murphy, a WKU graduate and Broadway performer serving as the production’s guest director, told WKU Public Radio the musical will entertain those who love the novel as well as those who aren’t familiar with the source material.

“If you’re a true fan, you know there’s a lot more to the story than they are able to fit into a two hour and twenty minute musical,” Murphy said. “There are lots of nuggets in the novel that you won’t see on stage but I think the highlights of the novel are very well-represented in the play.”

The cast features 23 student actors, including 12 principal characters and an ensemble. When the rehearsal process for the show began earlier this year, actors and production crew remained masked throughout rehearsals and only removed face coverings to perform individual scenes on stage. That all changed when WKU rescinded the mask mandate after a decrease in COVID-19 cases and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Murphy said the cast has responded well to rehearsing and performing without masks.

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Bronson Murphy
The cast of Little Women at WKU rehearses before the opening of the production.

“Everybody was comfortable. There wasn’t any sort of uproar about ‘no, I think we should keep them’ or anything about ‘I’m free,’ it was just kind of like a fact. I’ve let the CDC guide when I put a mask on, so I’ll let them guide when I take it off,” Murphy said.

Murphy said his cast has the option to stay masked, although most have chosen to rehearse without a face covering. He said it’s a sign of a return to normalcy, but concerns still remain over the direction of the pandemic.

“I think theater will return to normal when the world does,” Murphy explained. “I think it will be one of the last things, though, that returns to normal.”

Murphy said the theater community is excited at the prospect of performing to a smiling audience without masks, and he expects his student performers to hold the same enthusiasm.

Little Women opens Friday, April 1 at WKU’s VanMeter Hall Auditorium with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Performances will also take place Saturday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase here.

Dalton York joined WKU Public Radio in December 2021 as a reporter and host of Morning Edition. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in History from Murray State University, and was named MSU's Outstanding Senior Man for fall 2021. He previously served as a student reporter and All Things Considered host for WKMS, part of the Kentucky Public Radio network. He has won multiple Kentucky Associated Press Awards and Impact Broadcast Awards from the Kentucky Broadcasters Association. A native of Marshall County, Dalton is a proud product of his tight-knit community.