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Think your life is rough? Try living during the Civil War

Many a little girl, after reading Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women," has imagined herself in the shoes of one of the March sisters.

Could they be shy Beth? Pretty, curly-haired Meg? Self-absorbed Amy? Or headstrong, hot-tempered Jo?

But the story does more than tell the travails of four young women growing up during the Civil War; it also tells us the story of a family struggling through difficult times.

And that’s what Fifth Row Center’s latest production, "Louisa’s Little Women," aims to achieve this weekend. Director Donna Chalmers, who founded the South Hall-based community theater group, said along with telling the story of "Little Women," the play also includes scenes from the author’s own life.

"There was certainly much more to her than what we know of her through Jo, the lead character," Chalmers said. Scenes include Alcott working in a Civil War hospital, as a 7-year-old girl and as a 55-year-old woman.

"She was a suffragette," Chalmers said. "She was one of the most important women of her time, and we don’t usually think of her that way. We just think of ‘Little Women.’"

And because the play takes place during the Civil War, Chalmers said it’s also a look at a family going through a hard time — and she expects more than a few audience members will be able to relate to that.

"Economic downturns for this family were very hard," she said of the family depicted in "Little Women," which is loosely based on Alcott’s own life.

"The story of the fortitude of these sisters and the relationship they had with family and friends is definitely something we can all relate to."

This production for Fifth Row Center involves about 40 members of the community in its cast and crew, Chalmers said. Everyone from students to working professionals to grandparents are involved in some aspect of the production.

Ronnie Gordon, for example, is a college student from Buford who is taking some time off from school to work. He studies lighting design in college, though, and has taken on this responsibility for Fifth Row Center.

It’s good to see people starting to specialize in certain aspects of the production, she said, and see the community theater really start to take off.

"It epitomizes what community theater should be like," Chalmers said.