After two decades as the theater teacher and director at Dos Pueblos High School, Clark Sayre’s final curtain call before retirement will be this year’s upcoming musical, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. What was the first show in the Elings Performing Arts Center on the Dos Pueblos campus in 2008 will now be Sayre’s send-off production. “It feels bittersweet,” says Sayre. “So many great memories and terrific kids I’m working with that I’ll miss.”
Beauty and the Beast is a show that the Dos Pueblos student performers grew up watching, so there’s a real connection between cast and material. Kaitlyn Diffenderfer, who plays Belle, was 6 years old when she saw Sayre’s first version of this production. “They are about to take that journey in the ‘great wide somewhere’ outside the comfort and predictability of high school,” says Sayre. “I think they can relate, as they’re all finding their own identities and places in the world; they can watch a model like Belle and see that it’s okay to be different. It’s actually a good thing to stand out.”
Sayre doesn’t usually revisit productions he’s already directed, but he wanted his last show to be a Disney vehicle since Dos Pueblos is one of Disney’s few pilot schools for musicals. This is one of the biggest-scale shows Sayre has directed, complete with spectacular dance numbers and all the technical stage magic of moving lights and projections.
There’s also been a change in Sayre’s style of direction. “I used to be a very heavy-handed director,” he says and describes staging and choreographing every onstage moment. Thirteen years ago, he took a class from Seth Barrish and the Barrow Group that revolutionized his approach. “Now I’m all about collaborating with actors and discovering moments. I encourage actors to ‘play’ during rehearsals so we can discover each moment in fresh new ways. I lose a bit of the sharpness this way, but we gain spontaneity, making it more fun for the actors and audiences.”
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs April 22-23, 30, and May 6-7 at the Elings Performing Arts Center on the DPHS campus (7266 Alameda Ave., Goleta). For more information, see dptheatrecompany.org.