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Entertainment

Live Theatre is Back and More Beautiful than Ever

As a self-proclaimed theatre fan, as well as someone who spent four years as a dedicated member of her high school’s stage crew, I could not be more excited for the return of Broadway and live theatre! I already have a few shows lined up over the next few months, but far beyond my excitement for these upcoming performances is my happiness that with its comeback, theatre is correcting its own mistakes.

            The Olney Theatre in Olney, Maryland is making huge strides towards the representation and blind casting (casting based on talent and ability rather than race, ethnicity, body type, gender, or sexual identity) that has been long called for in theatre. The theater is currently running a production of Beauty and the Beast with Jade Jones, a queer, plus-sized black woman, and Evan Rugerrio, an award-winning actor and amputee, in the lead roles. Jones was surprised to be cast as Belle, not seeing herself in the typical very thin, pale-skinned image associated with the iconic Disney princess. 

            The practice of casting leading actresses to fit a certain mold, often the same one as Belle, has led to an extreme lack of inclusion in theatre and casting based on stereotypes for all types of roles. In the latest season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (which I will somewhat shamefully admit to watching out of curiosity), this concept is explored when Ashylnn, the sweet mid-sized girl, often cast in the roles of mother or teacher, is cast as Belle over the thin, blonde, blue-eyed newcomer. Ashlynn wrestles with feeling unworthy or not beautiful enough to play Belle in the school’s production, reflecting the image struggles that all girls experience at one point or another as a result of seeing the leading ladies of their childhood share an image that is impossible to fit. 

            The Olney Theatre’s production has helped its actors to have confidence in themselves and their own beauty, and has launched the #IAmBeauty campaign to inspire others to find that confidence in themselves and recognize that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The theater’s inclusive casting and obvious hard work has created a production that I am sure will be wonderful and will have an important impact on young actors and actresses. Seeing representation of different body types, physical abilities, races, and sexualities in the actors who play such iconic characters shows them that they can find success in their dreams no matter what. Carrying the message of the show - that beauty means so much more than one expects - into the philosophy of how it is created is so incredibly important for the audience, local community, and broader theater community. Hopefully, as the work of the Olney Theatre gains traction, more theaters, and perhaps major Broadway theaters, will choose inclusion and representation when casting their shows going forward. 

            The Olney Theatre is about 3 hours away from the East Falls Campus, but the production of Beauty and the Beast will be running from its opening in early November until January 2, 2022. You can find tickets, an interview with the cast, and more information here: 

https://www.olneytheatre.org/whats-playing/disneys-beauty-and-beast

Emma Prushan

Jefferson '25

Emma is a first year student at Jefferson studying Visual Communications Design/Graphic Design. In her free time, she enjoys reading, binging series, doing crafts, playing the guitar, and having opportunities to be creative in general! She also has two pet guinea pigs at home and one is named after Benedict Cumberbatch.
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