The area’s newest theater group is introducing itself to the community with a classic of American literature that the group’s director promises will appeal to the whole family.

And the group may be familiar to many who have been fans of the long running Southern Maine Association of Shakespearean Home-Schoolers.

The alumni of SMASH — which draws actors from all over southern and central Maine — have scheduled three performances of a theatrical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” at Monmouth’s famed theater Cumston Hall, starting Friday.

“This is not a high school production,” said director Samuel Richards. “It’s professional quality.”

Richards, pastor of East Winthrop Baptist Church, started SMASH more than 20 years ago to help introduce young people to William Shakespeare. The group, comprising primarily home school students, does a yearly production of a Shakespeare play at Cumston Hall in Monmouth.

For a number of years, SMASH alumni have urged Richards to put together a production for those who have graduated from high school and SMASH. Richards is answering that request and found some of the most talented actors and actresses to participate in SMASH were eager to get back on the stage. There are 12 major characters in the play — more than three dozen people are involved with the total production — the youngest of whom is 17.

“These are very talented actors,” Richards said. “They are the cream of the crop.”

Richards, who honed his study of Shakespeare at Bates College and then Mansfield College at the University of Oxford in England, has been a lifelong devotee of the Elizabethan-era playwright, but when he decided to create a theater group for SMASH alumni, Richards expanded the offerings.

“We’re going to try to do worthwhile works like ‘Little Women,'” Richards said. “Next year we’d like to do ‘Pride and Prejudice.'”

Richards chose a script in the public domain and then added scenes that Alcott included in her original novel, first published in the 1860s, that have been removed over the years. The additions not only add clarity to the overall character and plot development, but the original scenes give the play more substance, Richards said.

“It had some real strengths in dialogue that others lacked,” he said of the original script. “All I needed to do was to put some of the original content back in. It transforms from a story for young girls to one of the transformation to womanhood. It’s a wonderful picker-upper for the post Christmas season.”

Richards said he was also drawn to the script because it depicts a family that enjoys healthy, loving relationships.

“Which, I think, in its own right is worth doing,” Richards said.

Richards hopes the theater group will attract attention beyond the home school community and into the mainstream.

“I’m excited,” Richards said. “If we can get this started I think they could do an annual show and do it really, really well.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642[email protected]

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