‘Beauty and the Beast’ more than just a Disney fairy tale | ParkRecord.com

‘Beauty and the Beast’ more than just a Disney fairy tale

Tour comes to Summit County libraries

Jay Pastucha, artistic director of the Hampstead Stage Company, said the organization's production of "Beauty and the Beast" is more about not judging a book by its cover, rather than Disney's "tale as old as time."

"We have spent a lot of time going back to the original book to cultivate ['Beauty and the Beast']," Pastucha said during an interview with The Park Record. "'Beauty and the Beast' is brand new and this is its first tour with us."

The Hampstead Stage Company's "Beauty and the Beast" will be performed at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 17, at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch. The production will also be presented on Tuesday, July 18, at 11 a.m. at the Coalville Branch and at 2 p.m. at the Kamas Branch.

The original story of "Beauty and the Beast" was first published in 1740 and written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneueve.

The text was rewritten by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. Throughout the centuries, the story has been adapted for theater, TV and film.

"It's been a fantastic process of putting it together and sending it out on the road," Pastucha said. "Our mission statement is bringing classic literature to life, so that is always the starting point for any of the plays we do."

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Pastucha said Amanda Martin, who wrote the Hampstead script, started from the story's original source.

"We then decided what we needed to pull from that," he said. "To do that, we asked ourselves why these stories are so relevant and why they have so much weight today to have been able to last throughout the years."

Martin and Pastucha looked at the common themes or some of the themes that have changed since the books were first published.

"From there, we create the conversation," he said.

One of the themes that pulled Pastucha into doing "Beauty and the Beast" is the climate of today's society.

"With everything that is going around now, I think the story about not judging someone because of their looks is something that is extremely relevant," he said. "Beauty actually gets to know the Beast, and she can see what's underneath. It's like us when we get to know someone we can see who they really are. This is the most important theme that we want to convey."

Pastucha also said he likes how the Beast's character develops.

"[He] takes the time to see Beauty as who she really is," he said. "She was given the name Beauty and people automatically assume she is going to act a certain way, but in our version, you will see her grow a lot as well."

One of the unique aspects about the Hampstead productions is that they are done with only two people, which can sometimes prove challenging, Pastucha said.

"Most theater companies have a house theater where you put on the productions with stage managers and tech crews," he said. "Touring, especially when we perform at libraries and art centers, helps you become a little more innovative like 'MacGyver,' if you will.

"You have to find things and improvise with items, so the actors can figure out how to bring as much life to the performance without having a stage manager, tech crew and other actors."

The two actors who will be in Summit County are Isaac Snyder and Abby Railsback.

"We are sending out a couple of fantastic actors to you, by the way," Pastucha said. "And it's fun for the audiences to see how these two people can portray all the different characters in 'Beauty and the Beast.'"

The rewards of reaching audiences with these two-person performances outweigh any technical challenge.

"Parents will contact us and say things like, 'My kid has never seen theater ever, and they never sit down, but this show captivated them the whole time,'" Pastucha said. "Our
Facebook page is also full of pictures and comments.

"That's wonderful because we make it a prime focus to bring honest theater to kids, no matter what age. Nobody likes being talked down to."

Pastucha discovered theater in high school while he was in rock bands and played football.

"I attended my first play in high school and I couldn't believe what they were doing," he said. "My drama teacher took me aside and said that anything was possible on stage."

A week after that, Pastucha injured his neck playing football.

"That made it possible for me to pursue theater, and I haven't looked back since."

Kirsten Nilsson, youth services librarian at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch, discovered the Hampstead Stage Company through a recommendation from the director of the Fillmore Library.

"She told me about this fabulous touring company who does these two-person shows," Nilsson said. "I contacted them and they brought 'Aladdin' in last summer and 'A Christmas Carol' over the winter. The kids couldn't get over that there were only two people in the cast, because the actors are very convincing."

Nilsson said bringing programs such as live theater and other performances to the library is part of her mission.

"It's important to me to expose kids to arts and entertainment that they may not see somewhere else," she said. "I think it broadens perspectives.

"I also like introducing kids to books and literature, and the Hampstead Stage Company's productions are based on these stories."

Hampstead Stage Company will present "Beauty and the Beast" at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 17, at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch, 1885 W. Ute Blvd. The production will be repeated at 11 a.m. at the Coalville Branch, 82 N. 50 East, and at 2 p.m. at the Kamas Branch, 228 W. 20 South, Suite. 28, on Tuesday, July 18. The events, which are based on the original story, are free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.thesummitcountylibrary.org.