When casting "Little Women," Hart said, they had a lot of choices but, for one character, the decision was no question: "When I saw her [Katie Shaver], I knew I had my Jo. I couldn't let her go. Then the others fell into place."
Those others are Claire Higgins as Amy, Haley Lambert as Beth, Susanna Tucker as Meg, Rebekah Prichard as Marmee and Ashley Rose as Hannah. Rounding out the nine-member cast are Linda O'Neil and BA Miskoweic as aunts March and Carroll and Mia Beckner as Meg's friend Sallie Moffatt.
(As you'll notice, there are no men in the cast. The male characters in Louisa May Alcott's story are referenced and talked to offstage, but they are never seen.)
The small size of the cast has made for a strong bond between the actresses. It's something Hart said she made a conscious effort to foster since the women are playing a family.
The young actresses recognized the importance of the bond, too.
"It helps the chemistry," said Shaver, a 15-year-old freshman at South Charleston High School and a community theater veteran. "You really have an energy with each other."
"[In] big shows, you may not see a lot of the cast until you start running the whole show," she continued. "Small shows make you really close. You all share that one thing."
"You bond with everyone in the cast, not just the people you get along with," added Lambert, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at John Adams and another community theater veteran. "Through all the rehearsals, we've really been able to bond, and that shows on stage."
For Higgins, the bond has been especially exciting because this is her first play that is not a school production. The 12-year-old Horace Mann sixth- grader said she's looking forward to "being able to perform with a group of people that are not school-related."
In the end, though, the friendship is just a bonus in the course of doing what they love.
"Being onstage is my favorite thing to do in the entire world," Shaver said. "I like to connect with people, tell a story."
When the curtain rises on this weekend's four performances, she'll get to do just that.
Reach Amy Robinson at flips...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.