Emma as Bella and Gabe Walker as the prince in Beauty and the Beast.
Emma Cooper is an actor who first appeared on the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine stage last fall as Bella in Beauty and the Beast. In the past year, she’s spent countless hours here rehearsing and performing with friends and peers under the guidance of our Theatre Artistic Director, Reba Short. Emma wrote this essay for a school assignment this spring and shared it with Reba and the actors in the Youth Voices on Stage project (learn more about it here or here). Reba was very moved and shared it with me, and I wanted to share it with you – Emma writes so eloquently of the very special experience our actors have here. If you or someone you know would like to have an experience like Emma’s, we have an audition workshop this week and auditions for Little Red Riding Hood next Wednesday, June 8.
When you’re a child magic is everywhere. Things become what they aren’t. A boulder becomes a fortress for a fairy army, a bumble bee a fairy prince’s noble steed. Mermaids frolic in the frothy waves at the beach and terrible monsters lurk in woods. Anything is possible. You can fly, become invisible and even become a cat. It all happens. Then, a strange phenomenon called “growing up” occurs.
Boulders begin to look like really big rocks. Bumble bees become foul pests who sting. The waves don’t seem that imposing and the mermaids are really just loose pieces of seaweed. Flying, it happens, but it’s expensive. Where does all the magic go? We become cynical and hardened. We don’t stop to smell the flowers and to marvel at the beautiful world we live in. Everything has to be fast, grown-up, scientific and chic.
Reba (standing, left) with members of the cast of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.
I get tired of this. This fast moving society we live in. I want to stop and smell the flowers, to marvel at a rock, see the good in a bumble bee! But it’s hard to unravel yourself. To get off of Faceook and sit outside, to stop thinking about your future and be awed by the present.
I’ve found someone who helps me do this, a grown-up none the less. Her name is Reba Short and she is the director of the Children’s Theater of Maine. When I heard about acting in your shows, I was thrilled. It’s hard to find theaters that do straight shows, non-musicals, for teens in Maine. I remember thinking “I’m so excited; this will look great on college applications! And, I’m getting experience for an acting career!” That IS true and it’s one of the perks of the theater. But when I participated in my first show, Beauty and the Beast, I realized that that wasn’t what I valued the most. I began to marvel again. That childlike wonder came back. I found myself questioning if an angsty prince-turned-Beast really DID live in the woods. Were those mermaids I saw smiling at me? Wait, are those troll tracks?! Smell these flowers! That was the most rewarding thing you could have ever given me Reba.
I remember one time in Beauty and the Beast. Gabe was having a hard time doing the characterization during a scene. You decided that we had to sing our lines out to each other. The combination was one of Phantom of the Opera meets Beauty and the Beast meets a couple of bad singers. It was one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever done and I thank you for it!
Emma at East End Community School leading a group discussion as part of the Youth Voices Onstage project.
In the Youth Voices project that we’ve been doing it’s such a pleasure to work with you. I know that you’ve taught us all to question our actions. When we go into schools the little kids adore you. They hang on to your every word, mesmerized. I know you’re probably going to say that you’re the one that is supposed to be thanking us, because we’re really the people who do the acting. You’re wrong. Without you this project would have not been possible. You’ve not only helped these little kids to do acts of kindness, you’ve helped us. You’ve made it so that we could all heal from wounds that were inflicted upon us by mean things people have done or said. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that working with you on this has been such a pleasure and honor.
We are so blessed to have you in our lives. You’ve taught us to see the fortress in a boulder, the smiling mermaids in the waves, to stop and smell the flowers. To cherish life and everything in it. To slow down and be awed. To find magic in the world. And most important of all to imagine and hope.