Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lion King Jr. Director's Note

The following remarks were written by Kendrick Phillips, The Davis Academy's Director of Visual and Performing Arts. They appeared in the program booklet for our 2015-2016 musical, Lion King Jr. The Davis Academy's 13th musical under Kendrick's direction and the last to be performed in our Middle School Gym, the performance was extraordinary on many levels and a standout even for Kendrick and The Davis Academy. It's my belief that these thoughtful remarks help understand some of what made Lion King Jr. such a moving experience for all involved because they show the level of thought and depth that informed all aspects of the show. 

“And where the Journey may lead you/ Let this prayer be your guide/
Though it may take you so far away/ Always remember your pride”

“It's the Circle of Life and it moves us all/ Through despair and hope/ Through faith and love/
Till we find our place/ On the path unwinding/ In the Circle / The Circle of Life”
-   The Circle of Life

 “They live in you / They live in me./ They're watching over/ Everything we see/
In every creature/ In every star/ In your reflection/ They live in you”
-          They Live in You

Welcome to The Davis Academy’s Lion Pride!  In our Pride Land, you will find close to 200 students (Mechina- through Eighth grade) on-stage and behind the scenes, leaping, dancing, wailing, and singing out loud.

Producing the school musical, The Lion King, Jr., this year is of particular “note” as this is our Bar Mitzvah year (13 years) of musicals at The Davis Academy.  We’ve come full circle, producing our last musical in the Middle School’s “gym-nagogue-atorium” before our “Next Stage,” when we will return to the Lower School campus in our brand new state-of-the-art performing arts center!

The Lion King Jr. based off Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is the musical I believe most closely speaks to Judaism, Jewish tradition, and our core Davis values. The connections and parallels between the lessons of the Torah and the lessons of Lion King are numerous.

There is a multitude of Jewish pride to be taken in this tale of the African Pride Land.   A significant measure of that pride focuses on the Jewish concept of respect for and the wisdom of the elders in the community, Tikun Olam, and our commitment to our Kehilla as we are responsible to and for each other.

A coming of age story, Simba grows up and with help from Nala and Rafiki, he embraces his father’s value of communal responsibility and takes the reins to lead his kingdom. This musical fosters a profoundly impactful understanding between children and their elders — a virtue in the vanguard of our Jewish teaching and values — that is hard to come by in today’s society.  The musical represents the bittersweet aspects of family life, with Simba ultimately taking hold of the responsibility for his Pride and community that his father had as he rises and is commanded to be a leader of the lion nation. For our children, this means being tutored in the sagacity of the elders, allowing youngsters “to step into adulthood” into becoming Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

We witness tradition and L’Dor V’Dor when Mufasa teaches Young Simba about gazing at the stars of his ancestors and again, when the ever-wise Ruach-filled Rafiki advises Older Simba to look into a pond in which he sees his father’s reflection surrounded by the stars of the sky; we cannot help but be moved by the memory of our Father, Abraham, when God beckoned him to look at the sky and count the stars. The stars shown to Abraham by God are promises of the future; the stars on which Simba gazes are promises of the past. 

The lesson of The Lion King, Jr. and the lesson of Judaism are the same: There is no “past” and no “future”; there is but a divine continuum of space and time in which we are all fortunate to sing our songs, write our scripts, and play together in this great circle of life, passing on our legacies, lessons, and teachings from generation to generation-our living manifestation of L’Dor V’Dor.

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