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Lovable, rebellious Jo

For fans of Louisa May Alcott, it will come as no surprise that Jo is at the center of Olympia Family Theater's "Little Women."

After all, the unconventionally minded writer is the character who’s based on Alcott – and she also seems to be the favorite of most of those who love the story.

She’s certainly the favorite of Mandy Ryle, who plays her in the production opening tonight.

“Definitely,” said Ryle, 17, a senior at Olympia High School. “I was hoping that I would get Jo because I felt like that was the character I could most identify with.”

Director Samantha Chandler echoed that sentiment. “Definitely,” she said. “How can you not love Jo March? I’m a rebel at heart.”

The dreaming and creatively scheming Jo is probably the character to whom modern girls can most relate.

“Jo was very boyish for that time,” Mandy said. “She doesn’t care so much about manners or posture. She doesn’t care as much about what other people think of her.”

And in the larger picture, Jo’s struggles have contemporary relevance, too, said Chandler, the theater’s managing director. “This show definitely focuses on Jo and what she has to come to terms with as far as what her future looks like. That’s what I focus on as a director: How do we help kids fulfill their potential and explore their creativity if they don’t fit in?”

The play doesn’t attempt to cover the full plot of Alcott’s novel (which runs 500-plus pages). “It really focuses on the time when Father is gone and the girls are growing up,” Chandler said. “There are key episodes. A lot of it is about transitions in life.”

Speaking of Father, who appears only briefly, he’s played by Mandy’s real dad, Ted Ryle.

“It’s pretty fun, especially because me and my dad are pretty close,” Mandy said. “It’s been cool to have him there at rehearsals.

“I’ve been in plays with him before,” she added, “but he’s never had to play one of my relatives.”

More ‘Women’

Yes, there are two productions of “Little Women” in town at the same time. No, they aren’t the same show.

Capital Playhouse’s production is the Broadway musical, which celebrates the family togetherness in Louisa May Alcott’s classic book. Performances continue at 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday and Dec. 16-18, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 18 and 19, and 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at Capital Playhouse, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia. Tickets are $35-$41 for adults, $30-$36 for seniors (60 and older) and youth (16 and younger). Call 360-943-2744, or go to www.capitalplayhouse.com.

Little Women

What: Jo and her sisters are at the center of Olympia Family Theater’s holiday drama, which focuses on the first year of Louisa May Alcott’s novel.

When: 7 p.m. today and Dec. 16, 17, 23 and 24; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 18, 19, 26

Where: The Black Box at the Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road S.W., Olympia

Tickets: $15.50 for adults; $12.50 for students, seniors and military; $8.50 for children younger than 12; $5 (cash and checks at the door) for 7 p.m. Dec. 16 show

Information: 360-753-8586 or www. washington center.org or www.olympia familytheater.org

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