Romance and magic were in the air at King School as a middle school cast of 37 actors and 12 crew members staged “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” in the final theatrical performance of the 2022-23 school year. The show, which was double cast, filled the Performing Arts Center with music and applause during performances on May 4 and 5.
“Throughout the whole preparation process, I realized that this show has built such a strong community that includes the actors, the stage crew, and the amazing adults that have put this show together,” said Mavi Triantafyllos ’27, who played the lead of Belle in one performance and joined the ensemble in the other. “No matter the choices we make and the risks we take, we know that we will always have the support of our castmates and that everyone will always have each other's backs.”
This connection is what Performing Arts teacher Amy Darnton hopes students gain from participating in theater, and this guides her in selecting the shows the students produce.
“‘Beauty and the Beast’ is ultimately a story about how our actions have consequences and that redemption can often be found if we truly love one another and have the courage to face adversity,” said Darnton, who directs all of the middle school productions. “I was happy to tell this story with such a lovely group of young talented actors.”
At the middle school level, Darnton noted that much of a production's focus is on personal growth. Leila DeSimone’s ’28 reflections demonstrated such growth.
“I felt scared on stage during the first song I had because I knew that the whole school was there and watching,” said Leila, “but it was also really rewarding to know that all my work paid off for the role in that moment.”
Stepping into the spotlight can be daunting for the students, and Darnton guides them through it.
“As a middle school person, it takes so much courage to get up in front of your peers and be vulnerable by singing, dancing, and creating these iconic characters,” Darnton said. “Students often find freedom behind the fourth wall to take risks and try things with their voice, body, and imagination that they would never dare to do in public. It's incredibly rewarding to see how that experience can change a young person.”
The production required a lot of flexibility as Darnton was challenged to make time for each student despite differing schedules.
“I had an extremely busy schedule outside of the musical rehearsals,” said Alicia Leng ’27, who was cast as Belle in one of the productions. “Ms. Darnton managed to plan the rehearsals out perfectly so I didn't have to miss out on my extracurricular activities, but I still got to take part in the play.”
Darnton said she does everything she can to make the plays accessible to even the busiest students.
“Often, we don't have everyone there at a rehearsal until tech week,” Darnton said, adding that she gathers class schedules, team schedules, and other extracurricular schedules and then plans rehearsals so that each student can participate. “I create a breakdown of the play by scene and cast. Then I figure out when we can rehearse each scene with the most students.”
Though challenging, the benefits theater arts bring to students makes it worth the effort.
“I wish I could beam into the heads of the audience the understanding of how far students have come in the process,” said Darnton. “I wish I had time to go down the row and tell the audience something in particular about the growth of each student. This is what I find the most valuable aspect of this work. At the MS level, we are not seeking a highly professional theater experience for the audience as much as we are a strong growing experience for the students. When those converge, that's when the real magic happens.”
Media from both performances can be accessed at the following links: