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Little Women

Performers in Open Stage of Harrisburg’s production of “Little Women” include, from left, Vanessa Marie Hofer, Alexis Dow Campbell, Kellie Kauterman, Hannah Arnold and Sophie Reusswig.

Open Stage of Harrisburg’s new production of “Little Women,” based on Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel about the experiences of four sisters growing up during the Civil War, has been an electrifying experience for one local woman.

Laura Dugan, of Palmyra, was commissioned by Open Stage to produce a new adaptation of Alcott’s beloved book. The production, which opened last weekend, continues through June 30 at the professional company’s theater in Harrisburg’s Walnut Street parking garage.

Dugan, who attended the opening night performance, was moved by the experience.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I didn’t know how I’d react. When the first scene began, I immediately teared up. There it was. This thing I wrote was actually happening. And it was beautiful. It is not often in life you can truly say something exceeded your expectations, but that’s what last night did.”

The production, directed by Producing Artistic Director Stuart Landon, stars Vanessa Marie Hofer, Sophie Reusswig, Alexis Dow Campbell and Hannah Arnold as the four March sisters. Kellie Kauterman is also featured in the production, as Marmee.

This powerful story, in which Alcott (and Dugan) give voice to the dreams and aspirations of women, seems a fitting choice for the final show of Open Stage’s 32nd season, which has a theme of “Lifting Up Women’s Voices.”

Returning play

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Gamut Theatre’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production, the Harrisburg-based company went back to the beginning.

This year’s production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is the same play Gamut staged during the very first rendition of free Shakespeare in 1994. The free production runs for three more days at the bandshell in the city’s Reservoir Park.

Over the years Gamut has worked its way through the Bard’s oeuvre, performing light comedies such as “Midsummer” and grimmer works like “King Lear” and last year’s “Macbeth.” In addition to Gamut’s core company, scores of community actors and a host of other volunteers donate time on stage and behind the scenes..

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a group of amorous Athenians, fearless fairies and merry mechanicals head to the woods to experience an unforgettable dream of love, magic and just the right amount of danger in one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies.

Director Thomas Weaver said he decided to set this production of “Midsummer” in Harrisburg as a way of acknowledging that home-grown contribution to the annual event’s success.

“This production of ‘Midsummer’ is a celebration of Harrisburg, and is the result of a great (and ongoing) community engagement project,” Weaver said. “And I suppose that’s what I love most about Free Shakespeare in the Park: It’s an event that brings people together. It ... provides accessibility to something we are often told is inaccessible.”

The final three shows, all beginning at 7:30 p.m., will be staged Thursday through Saturday. Watchers are invited to bring blankets, chairs and picnic baskets. Insect repellent is also a good idea.

Audience members are also encouraged to bring along canned goods, which will be donated to the Bethesda Mission.

Musical

Totem Pole Playhouse continues its 68th summer season with “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a Tony Award-winning musical featuring the songs of early 20th century pianist and composer Thomas “Fats” Waller.

The five-member revue will perform a variety of Waller’s best known tunes, including “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Black and Blue,” “This Joint is Jumpin’” and “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling.”

Waller (1904-43), a prolific composer and riveting performer, rose to fame in his native New York City during the so-called Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ‘30s. Before his death from pneumonia at age 39, he successfully toured both nationally and internationally.

Legend has it he was once abducted by gunmen in Chicago so that he could perform at a surprise birthday party for infamous gangster Al Capone.

Totem Pole’s production, which opens Friday and continues through July 1 at the professional summer stock theater in Caledonia State Park, features performers Whitney Hayes, Brandi Chavonne Massey, Khalifa White, Jaime Cepero and Brian Jordan Jr.

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