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Natchez Little Theatre adds second Pilgrimage production

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Adair Carey, Hannah Hargis, Camille Taylor and Katie Borum, from left to right, play the parts of Beth, Meg, Joe and Amy March in Natchez Little Theatre’s upcoming production of “Little Women.” Courtney Taylor, center, plays their mother, Mrs. March. In the scene, Mrs. March reads a letter from her husband and the girl’s father who is away serving as a minister in the Civil War.  The play follows the lives of the four March sisters as they stay close despite having limited means.

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Adair Carey, Hannah Hargis, Camille Taylor and Katie Borum, from left to right, play the parts of Beth, Meg, Joe and Amy March in Natchez Little Theatre’s upcoming production of “Little Women.” Courtney Taylor, center, plays their mother, Mrs. March. In the scene, Mrs. March reads a letter from her husband and the girl’s father who is away serving as a minister in the Civil War. The play follows the lives of the four March sisters as they stay close despite having limited means.

Starting next week, members of the Natchez Little Theatre will provide entertainment for visitors and locals alike during Spring Pilgrimage every day of the week — a feat that’s never been tackled by the theater in its 83 years of existence.

Casts will perform two productions — Little Women and Southern Exposure — during Spring Pilgrimage following changes to the schedule of Historic Natchez Tableaux performances, NLT Executive Director Layne Taylor said.

This year’s tableaux will only be performed two nights of the week during pilgrimage, different from the four nights it has been performed in recent years.

Taylor said the theater wants to capitalize on the changes in the tableaux schedule by ensuring that entertainment was provided to those in town taking in the sights during pilgrimage.

“We’ve never done this in the 83-year history of the theater, but we wanted to test the waters and see if we could do it,” Taylor said. “I felt the disintegration of tableaux performances left some nights open that were screaming for local entertainment.”

After making the commitment to showcase performances each day of the week, Taylor said he sat down to create a “military-like schedule” for rehearsals and other important dates leading up to opening nights for each production.

“We started with that right after Christmas, so we’ve been going at this a long time,” Taylor said. “I knew we only had a finite number of days to get it done, so there was no wiggle room on the schedules.”

Taylor decided to schedule rehearsal nights on the same days the productions would be put on at the theater.

One cast was chosen for Little Women, which debuts March 6, and two casts were selected for “Southern Exposure,” which opens March 7.

Little Women will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday through April 3.

The stress of performing the play so many times during the week wasn’t bothering Sarah Carey and her daughter, Adair, Monday during rehearsals.

Sarah, who performed in her first NLT production during “A Natchez Christmas Carol,” said she’s looking forward to getting back on the stage.

“This is a bigger role than ‘Christmas Carol’ so it’s exciting,” said Sarah, who is playing the role of Aunt March. “It’s a lot of performances, but the good thing is knowing that the more we do it, the easier it will be because we’ll know it so well.”

Sarah, who also assists with costume design for “Little Women” and other NLT productions, said having her daughter alongside her during the entire process has been extremely rewarding.

“It’s great fun to be with her and be able to watch her do what she does,” Sarah said. “It’s been great.”

Adair, who plays the part of Beth March, said she’s excited and a bit nervous to take on such a big role in the production.

Taylor said seeing the young actors in the community, such as Adair, blossom through casting and rehearsals has been a treat.

“This really gave us a good chance to showcase the amazing young talent we have in our community,” Taylor said. “Plus, ‘Little Women’ is one of the most widely read novels in the world, not just read by little girls, but people of all ages.”

The show is an adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott story of four young sisters and their mother who struggle to overcome the trials of keeping up appearances and spirits while battling poverty and awaiting news of their father who was away in the Civil War.

“This is the history of how a war impacts its women and how they rise to the occasion,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be an incredible performance.”

The debut of the pilgrimage classic, “Southern Exposure,” will follow closely behind “Little Women” and be showcased at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday through April 4.

Owen Crump, the author of “Southern Exposure,” was a prominent television writer when he visited Natchez for pilgrimage in the late 1940s and fell in love with Natchez and the pilgrimage and parodied them in this delightful comedy that opened on Broadway in 1950.

“Southern Exposure” had its Natchez premiere in 1951 and has been an annual part of the pilgrimage since 1964, with more than 1,300 performances for 50 years.

Michael Ware, assistant director and stage manager for “Southern Exposure” and “Little Women,” said the preparation for both productions has been tiring, but exciting.

“It’s been so different to be up here working on something seven days a week, but it’s going to be great,” Ware said. “For me, I think the hardest thing is jumping from play to play from in such a short amount of time, but it’s all going to work out because we have such a talented group of performers.

“I’m never nervous … I trust these guys.”

Tickets to both productions are $15. Reservations can be made by calling 601-442-2233 or 1-877-440-2233 or by visiting natcheztheatre.org.