Caroline, Or Change - March 19 - March 28, 2015

The Beacon School

 Director's Note 

Caroline, or Change opened at the Public Theatre the same fall I started teaching at Beacon. You could say I fell in love with this play the same season I fell in love with this school. From 2004-2012 my senior English elective studied the intersection of popular music and social justice in Tony Kushner’s “musical” and inevitably ended up singing Noah’s part all over the Beacon halls. Students asked over and over again why B’DAT wasn’t immediately attempting to produce Caroline, or Change and I frequently laughed at the prospect. For years Caroline, or Change was a brass ring so far from my reach. It is simply too big, too musically complex, too technically complicated, too psychologically heavy for young artists. There’s a reason only one other high school has even attempted to stage this play. From a production standpoint it is a bear. But from a theatrical stand point? It is perfect. It is my favorite musical. Favorite favorite. The most admired and respected. Caroline is a tidal wave that I’m in awe of really. I’m humbled at the grace of her gown – and church lady hat. Caroline, or Change has my whole heart.


But lately it doesn’t feel like much has changed since November 1963. In November 2014 I found my beautiful students sitting in this studio shaking with tears of fury, disappointment and confusion. Later that day young artists of every color, creed and culture gathered around a clunky old piano and squeezed their rage into melodies and culled harmonies out of discontent. They wrote songs. They held each other. Dazay, Rob, Marla, Atticus, Willa, Molly… I was insanely proud of them for pouring their frustration into creating something new. But they also asked me questions I could not answer because I remember asking the exact the same questions in 1992 when the LA Riots were Ferguson and I was sixteen.


“Atticus-“ said Jem bleakly.

He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”

“How could they do it, how could they?”

“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep.

Good night.”  From To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


I saw Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight Los Angeles, 1992 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ and again when it transferred to Broadway when I was in high school. The experience changed the course of my life because Twilight taught me that plays have power. Plays can break your heart and reassemble your heart in one sitting. Plays can challenge and change your moral code. Plays can gift you a part of your self that you didn’t know was missing. Plays can change a person. Plays can change a culture. Plays can change the world. 


When it was time to face the stalling and commit to the last B’DAT musical at 227 West 61st Street Caroline, or Change was the only choice. We’d been waiting on the release of another title and frankly hiding from Caroline to some degree for yearsAs much as I love her, I was afraid of her. Lilli was afraid of Caroline too. But how could we be afraid of a play when its characters were standing all around us, hearts open and ready to go?  


We thought a rock show would be the best finale to our time in the Beacon Black Box, but man were we wrong. Caroline, or Change is just ‘so Beacon’. A Klezmer-Blues-Pop-R&B-Motown Operetta. Right up our ally right? Caroline, or Change pushes us to our limits musically, technically, psychologically and I could not be more proud of just how full our little studio, and everyone in it, has become. 

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