A week after we closed the final curtain on our seventh mainstage production, so many of us find ourselves reflecting on this experience that was much more than putting on a show. These performances are the culmination of months of hard work, a true collaboration among a team of creatives, working to showcase the talents of an incredible community of students both on and offstage.
In this “Reflections: Part One” post, I am publishing the letter that I wrote in this year’s playbill. This is the first time I have published it beyond the playbill, but I can’t stop thinking about the theme of this year’s production. The concept of “beauty within” is timeless, and so needed in today’s culture of making snap judgements about people based on first impressions, or based on their mistakes or brokenness that might be masking what is underneath.
A Note from the Director
I’m going to date myself here, but I still remember the day that I first saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” in the movie theatre. I was awestruck at the animation and loved the musical numbers, but there was something else about it that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time. I became mildly obsessed with it, memorizing nearly the entire script and forcing my friends to watch it over and over again at sleepovers. This wasn’t the typical Disney princess story.
Years later, while working for Disney Theatrical Productions on Broadway, it just so happened that “Beauty and the Beast” was their top show at the time. I was able to work with the designers and see the show several times on broadway. This behind-the-scenes glimpse at how they brought the animated film to life was an incredible experience. Yet still, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about the story that captivated me.
Many of you know the basic storyline for this classic piece of literature. You may remember the young prince who is spoiled, selfish, and unkind. A curse is placed on him and his entire castle: He becomes a beast while they are transformed into objects. You may remember the beautiful villager named Belle who always stood out from the crowd, never quite fitting into the mold. When her father gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon the castle, he is taken prisoner. Belle offers to take his place so that he could be set free…and that’s when things begin to change for Belle, and the Beast.
Yet underneath the basic storyline and transformation that we see happen throughout the story, there’s an even deeper theme. If we really think about it, we can all identify with both beauty and the beast. We have all struggled with being unkind, like the young prince. We have all suffered brokenness in our lives that affects others. And like Belle, we are often misunderstood. And the only way that we can be who we are created to be — our true and whole selves — is through finding True Love. The Love that heals the brokenhearted and binds up the scars of living in a broken world. The Love that sees us for who we are inside, the beauty that is in all of us (though sometimes hidden under scars).
The tale we share with you tonight no fairy tale. It can be a reality in our own lives if we let it. It is a tale of True Love breaking the curse.
A tale as old as time.
With gratitude, we invite you to be our guest as we present our seventh MainStage production.
Jennifer Keating Roca
to my cast + crew + team: you inspire me to reach higher. This year more than ever, it has been my honor to work with you and among you. New things await.