They may only be kids, but this school's production of Beauty and the Beast isn't some Disney version. In fact, children under 11 are encouraged to stay home. This deeper, more sinister tale focuses much on the beast's tormented past.
It comes from the original French story published in the 1700s, and underscores what Nancy Holaday likes to do with her students at University School of Colorado Springs — take what they're used to, and flip it.
The Christian K-through-12 school in Old Colorado City allows its 100-some pupils to attend classes two or three days a week, with plenty of homework. In her five years leading its drama program, Holaday — whose Black Box Theatre company works with the school, where she teaches second grade — has found the seventh- through 12th-graders better grasp what they're reading through acting in four productions.
So with their literary analysis and public speaking, they also get sword fighting.
"When the sound of steel is on the stage," Holaday says, "there's just nothing like it."
Steve Perkins is the one who taught the students professional sword-fighting techniques. Holaday first started working with Perkins over a year ago on The Legends of Camelot, and later had the students perfect their skills for Romeo and Juliet. For Beauty, the group has also choreographed complex scenes, including one set in the Hall of Mirrors, in which they will manipulate 24 mirrors.
True to Beauty's message, this weekend's performances have a hidden benefit: the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Holaday says if all tickets sell, they could raise more than $20,000 for research of cystic fibrosis, a condition two of their schoolmates have.