Last month I saw a lavish production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Last night I saw a high school production of the same play at the Omak Performing Arts Center. To compare the two would be to mix apples with oranges, or more likely, caviar with popcorn. And I do love popcorn.
I paid $75 for the Ashland performance, and I got my money’s worth. I paid $6 for the high school production, and I got a million times more than that in enjoyment. Professional actors are good, sometimes even great, and you expect them to be. Kids onstage are good, sometimes potentially great, and they’re more: they’re discovering themselves as they venture into a world larger than themselves. That is genuine drama and comedy of a kind you don’t get to see in professional theater.
After school performances like these I hear audience members marvel at the talent of the youngsters. Youthful talent never surprises me. It’s always going to be there. What isn’t always there is the necessary level of adult support that showcases young talent. That behind-the-scenes support and direction was apparent in last night’s performance. Skilled, knowledgeable adults provided the infrastructure that allowed young actors to shine. I’m gratified to live in a community that supports kids, whether they’re on the football field, gym floor, or theater stage. I’m especially grateful for the teachers and volunteers who, as skilled grown-ups, guide youngsters through formative, life-changing experiences.