A few weeks back, I had the chance to meet up with an old friend from high school to go out on a Saturday night date. Keeping things classy, we decided to do the ever popular dinner and a movie combo, with a trip to Chili’s and the local AMC theatre set for the agenda. Luckily for us, Beauty and the Beast was still playing, and, as neither one of us had yet to see it, we made it our selection and settled into our luxury recliners to watch the show. The movie itself was excellently done. Disney has really been par for the course with their usual brilliance when putting together their new line of live action movies. Near the end of the movie, Disney really raised the dramatic stakes by elevating the climactic moment when the last rose petal falls. If you know Beauty and the Beast, you know that when this petal falls, hope runs out. The prince will be stuck as a beast forever, and his servants will be permanently turned into antiques. In the movie, this begins to happen, as the viewer sees shots of all the servants turning slowly into lifeless objects. I must admit, I am quite guilty of being someone who likes to talk during movies, very much along the lines of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and during this bleak moment, I jokingly leaned over to my date and said, “And that’s how the movie ends.” Black screen. Cue credits. That’s all she wrote folks.
Of course, we all know in our hearts this would never happen, and the story reflects this, with the movie not ending in this moment, but later this got me thinking about the complexity of the story. Great stories are based on great expectations. We as moviegoers or theatre patrons head into shows already with a set of expectations in our minds as to how our world and things in our life should be. We all know from the moment Belle first meets the Beast that there is hope, the same hope that Lumiere has when he exclaims, “She’s the one! The girl that’s going to break the spell!” I think we as humans collectively believe in some of these universal ideals, like the belief that true love conquers all, or that we all deserve a second chance. That is why seeing stories is so important for us as a culture, it reminds us of who we are and what we are striving for. Sometimes it’s a method of escape. Finding those characters we can identify with can help us to not feel so alone in life.
The term for this ethereal release of emotions is known as catharsis, and great stories provide the greatest release. To develop this buildup of emotion within a story, we must care about the main character. Imagine if Belle was some snobby, self-absorbed girl who believed that she was too good for the small town she was living in, and that’s why she wanted to leave. How many of us would root for a character like that? Instead, we meet a girl who is a bit ahead of her time, living in a small town of people who, although not bad people, have little ideals and small goals in life. To some of us, we connect with Belle’s desires, finding ourselves also wanting to escape a mundane life with little going on. For others, we may laugh at Belle a little, preferring to be in the company of a small town where everyone knows your name. Again, we each go into the show with different expectations, and those expectations are what paints our perception of the plot.
The Beast is another great example. The opening section of the story is so important, because it sets the stage for the transformation of his character throughout the course of the story. Again, we believe in the power of second chances and forgiveness, and that’s why we as an audience need so desperately to see this moment occur. We hear the tortured pain in the Beast’s voice, we see the anger that has been built up inside of him as a result of being so lonely for all these years, we see the frustration he feels as the result of making “one careless wrong decision.” Humans make mistakes, but nobody should ever be forced to be an outcast for the rest of their life as a result. Thus, when the spell finally is broken, we too as an audience rejoice in the wonderful final moments of the film. It’s true that we love our happy endings, but again I think this reflects our expectations of how life should be.
This is the power that lies within storytelling. To me, there has never been any power greater in my life than the ability to move people emotionally through song, dance, and spoken word. It doesn’t matter the venue, good storytellers get people to leave emotionally changed, and this is why acting has always been so important in my life. There are differing levels of love for the art; some enjoy it for the fun of it, for others it’s something that’s cool to do. For me, acting is a craft, one that I have always had the highest intentions of making it my life calling and doing everything in my power to become the best that I can be at it. If you’ve ever seen bad and wooden acting, you know all too well how it can take you out of the moment, which causes you to lose that vested interest of identification. The greatest performances of our lifetime have come because of years of dedication to the art of acting, but it was through that hard work that these great actors and actresses were able to produce something that had the power to change a life. I caught the acting bug at quite a young age, and ever since it has been the driving force behind everything I do in my life. Someday, my hope is that I, too, will be able to deliver performances that give the audience something to move them. For me, acting has never been about fame or fortune, but always about the ability to serve my community through my work, and give them a finished product that can enhance their lives, just as so many other wonderful actors have enhanced my own.
This summer, you will have a great opportunity to experience that firsthand. Acting Out has put on some exceptional shows over the past few years, and this summer’s production of Beauty and the Beast is sure to be another hit. Full of classic songs and colorful characters, the show is sure to impact yet again those life expectations we have all come to know. Whether this could be your first show ever, or the next of many, come check us out this summer and allow the expectations of theatre to provide you with an experience to last a lifetime.