Oregon Stage Works ushers in the holidays with "Little Women," a story of family love, struggle and strength that has delighted generations.

Oregon Stage Works ushers in the holidays with "Little Women," a story of family love, struggle and strength that has delighted generations.

Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott and adapted for the stage by Marisha Chamberlain, "Little Women" opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, at 191 A St., Ashland.

The show runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 4. The theater will be closed on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, but will offer special holiday performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 24 and 31.

The theater will offer special $15 tickets for seniors 65 and over at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, and at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12.

"Little Women" tells the story of four sisters growing up in Civil War America. There is Jo, headstrong and passionate; demure Meg; shy, loving Beth; and mischievous Amy. With their father away at war, times are hard and the girls must find the courage to realize their own dreams and to keep the family going.

Director Lisa Marie Malovoz says in a press release that "Little Women" is strikingly relevant for our day. "I thought I'd have to explain a lot to the younger members of the cast," she says. "After all, over half the girls who auditioned got the casting call off the Internet." But, says Malovoz, everyone connected to the story right away. "There's war, a tough economy, and all the things little girls go through: wanting this, wanting that, and having to learn what's really important."

For Malovoz, "Little Women" holds particular value this holiday season. "The play shows that we don't need a lot," she says, "just family love, compassion and friends — the simple things. Seeing the cast discover that has been touching. We feel it's a gift we can give the audience too."

The actors playing the four young sisters range in age from 10 to 23. The youngest, Emily Elizabeth Bunten, has appeared in multiple productions with OSW's Ashland Children's Theatre, including "The Great Wave" and "Pandora's Pandemonium."

North Medford High student Isabelle Schuler was last seen in Camelot Theatre's "Meet Me in St. Louis" and in its Children's Theatre production of "Once Upon a Mattress."

Sophia Palosaari has toured Europe with the Ambassadors of Music and performed at the Craterian with the Children's Dance Theatre, appearing most recently in "Grease," "The Wiz" and "The Nutcracker Fiesta."

Libby Barnard, who just completed her theater degree at Southern Oregon University, is currently an understudy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She was seen most recently as Little Sally in SOU's production of "Urinetown."

Joining them are OSW veterans Julie Excell, recently seen in "Glacial Genes" and "Tales of Fannie Keenan"; Rochelle Savitt, who returns after "The Trip to Bountiful" and "Witness for the Prosecution"; James David Larson ("Tales of Fannie Keenan"); Sam King ("Glacial Genes," "Holiday Memories"); and Larry Aerni ("Witness for the Prosecution"). Rounding out the cast are Danielle Peplinski, who appeared in "Witness for the Prosecution," and Clinton Clark, an SOU theater major who is making his OSW debut.

Malovoz last directed "Witness for the Prosecution" for OSW. She also is in charge of lighting and set design. Sound design is by Myscha Caruso, whose original music weaves the play's scenes together.

Stage manager for the production is Tyler Malovoz. Costume design is by Sue Cowper, with assistance on costumes from Donna Klein, Sandra Brown and Carol Cash.

Set construction is by Brian Wallace and Rowdy Yates and set painting by Charles Couraud. Eric Kresh is in charge of props.

See oregonstageworks.org or call 482-2334.