story by Julie Bagley
More than 40 children will take the stage Thursday night through Sunday in a production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The children of Arts Live Theatre will act out the classic fairy tale of Belle, whose father is imprisoned by the Beast, and offers herself instead, only to discover her captor to be an enchanted prince.
The cast ranging in ages from 9 years old to 18 years old has been rehearsing for nine weeks.
“They love it,” said Executive Director Mark Smith, “I mean who doesn’t want to be Belle and the Beast. It’s the Annie of our Generation.”
The children performing the story have grown-up watching the film and many were ready to show their enthusiasm when auditions came around.
“One of our parents sent their audition picture from Halloween, they went trick-or-treating as Belle with her brother as Beast,” he said.
Smith said while the excitement can be felt on-and-off stage, the rehearsal process is intense.
“It’s a musical. It can be challenging but the children rise to it,” said Smith.
Arts Live Theatre is a non-profit children’s and youth theatre company which was established in 1983. Its mission is to offer theatre by children and youth. It’s the regions only dedicated children’s and youth theatre company and is housed at the UA Global Campus building off the downtown Fayetteville square.
Smith has been with Arts Live Theatre since 2003. It’s important for him to instill in the children a sense of work ethic. He said watching a production from the audience, one can assume the work is easy but Smith wants the children to learn rehearsal edict, hard work and responsibility.
“The kids are great. They come in and are a blank canvas. They are open to experiencing teaching teamwork and accountability, responsibility, self-esteem, self-respect … regardless of the career path they choose.”
Smith works with 400 children each year in different capacities spanning 40 after-school programs with eight satellite programs around the region.
“It’s been pretty amazing. What we’ve done for the past four years when the City of Fayetteville provided us with this building. It expanded our programming from two to three shows to eight shows every eight weeks,” he said.
Not only do the children perform on-stage, there are classes and children helping with costumes and set design.
One teen involved in the program, Coleman Clark, designed the sets. He’s a sophomore at Fayetteville High School and Smith has watched him grow into a responsible young adult in the program.
“He’s a theatre artist. The kids listen to him and he gains respect, that’s been amazing. He can act, design, he’s getting those opportunities because of Arts Live. He reminds me of me at 16 years old,” Smith said.
The audience will receive the full-production treatment for 75 minutes with no intermission.
The family-friendly musical is general admission. Performances run Thursday through Sunday with tickets ranging in price from $8 to $12. Link here for ticket and show information, or call 521-4932 to reserve by phone, or purchase at door.