23 November 2011

Preview of "A Little Princess" by Players of the Stage

Players of the Stage, our only -- and therefore, but for many other reasons as well, an essential part of the local arts community -- Christian youth theatre, is presenting their semi-annual play. This time around, it is The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, adapted by the company's director, Sharon Barshinger.

There are some beautiful lines and very profound themes in this “children's” story. The main character, Sara, is a very intelligent, well-educated girl whose thoughts tend to the metaphysical. At one point, she tells a story about what she images Heaven to be like, infusing it with the generic conventions of myth and fairy tale (scandalizing some of her more conventional listeners). There are, of course, huge obvious themes of classism, with the traditional hierarchy only gently questioned and generally reinforced by Sara's renewed wealth and status by the end of the tale. The importance of education is both emphasized and embodied, with an especial focus on the importance of literature, history, and a large vocabulary. There is even a touch of posthumanism (according to Sara, the rat who shares her garret “is a person too: he gets hungry, he's married, he has children.”

But the two most prominent themes are patience under suffering, and the power of imagination. Sara's friend says, “When you talk about things, they seem real.” She responds that “they are real” and that, conversely, “everything is a story.” She understands the necessity of the past as a means of making sense out of the present: the major difference between Sara and her friends is that she knows history and literature and can both compare the present to them, and use them to transform the present. In other words, she has something with which to feed her imagination. The difference between herself and the “scullery maid” Becky is that she has a wealth of images, characters, and events to draw from to keep her mind and hope alive. It is not that she has an imagination and others do not, but that her imagination has a constant supply of material.

The theme the director has chosen to emphasize is the idea that we are given our trials and sufferings for a reason, and that suffering is part of life. The director's note will pick up on this theme, so you can read that when you attend the play.

December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at 7:00 p.m.
December 3rd at 2:00 p.m.
At Living Hope Church, 330 Schantz Road, Allentown, PA

Due to the natural changes of the growing up and graduating of the most experienced members, the current cast is young and the result is much more artificial than previous performances. They are also quite difficult to hear, not yet having mastered the arts of diction and projection. In spite of that, these children show remarkable control. They are focused and intense, handling the slightly formal language with great aplomb. They are also not distracted by the reporters snapping pictures right in their faces, setting off flashbulbs with tremendous noise -- but they just go right on. All in all, an inspiring performance, and not “just” for kids.


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