I’ve been thinking today about the Stages Bloomington production of HONK! JR. back in April, and felt like posting my director’s note. The following is slightly edited from the first draft, which needed to be cut down to fit in the program, but it has some of my thoughts about arts education and such. So let’s call this “The Director’s Cut”.
Welcome to Stages Bloomington, welcome to The Warehouse, and welcome to Honk! Jr. based on “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen. Published in 1843 in Denmark, it’s a true classic of children’s literature. Why has this story captured our hearts for almost 200 years? It’s a universal story about personal transformation, and about overcoming teasing and bullying. I think we’ve all had times where we seemed different on the outside, or felt different on the inside.
In our musical version, the lesson is not just about Ugly’s transformation, but what the other animals realize they’ve lost when he goes missing. I’m pretty sure even if Ugly had stayed just the way he was, he’d have been welcomed back to the duckyard just as warmly. I can’t think of more important message for children to learn: that difference isn’t something to fear, but something to celebrate and learn from (and, like most important messages for children, it’s a valuable reminder for grown-ups too).
I owe a big debt of gratitude to everyone who made this show possible. Thank you, Samantha and Emily, for doing a splendid job teaching the choreography and music. Thank you, Lucia and Ceilidh, for being such a great backstage team. Thank you Sheryl for helping run rehearsals and getting this whole production across the finish line. Thank you Sarah, Brian and Joe for your lovely artwork and designs. Thank you Pat, Molly and the Stages Board for entrusting me with this show. Thank you cast for all your hard work!
And perhaps most of all, I want to thank YOU for joining us. YOU, the audience, are the final collaborator in this story we’re telling. And we here at Stages absolutely want to entertain you. But we have other, bigger plans that don’t fit on this stage. Because the performance you’ll see is a small part of what arts education is about. The rest of it is hidden “behind the scenes”:
· Behind the scenes are the skills and discipline the cast can use in another show.
· Behind the scenes are the teamwork, creativity and confidence that will help them solve all sorts of problems in their future.
· Behind the scenes are the friendships they’ve made.
· Behind the scenes are the increased empathy and openness to the world around them.
I believe arts education isn’t just about making more and better artists. It’s about making healthier and better people and societies. So, thank you for supporting quality arts education in your community. [And I mean “your community” for all of you. Even if you’re visiting from far away, for the time that you’re in the audience with us, for the time you spend with these performers and this story, Bloomington is YOUR community too.]
~Liam Castellan, Director
PHOTO CREDIT: Lucia Davila