From the Director’s Desk – April 2017
Tale as Old as Time
Dear Friends of Capital Camps,
Carrie and I saw the live-action reboot of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” a few weeks ago. The dazzling displays of color, sprawling landscapes and sing-along tunes reminiscent of my childhood stimulated in me a deep nostalgia for this timeless tale. As we approach the holiday of Passover (beginning Monday evening, April 10), I found myself reflecting on a few parallels between my re-acquaintance with “Beauty and the Beast” and our pending Exodus story.
In addition to the familiarity of characters like the endearing Mrs. Potts and the uninhibited and hilarious Lumiere, there were also a few new additions to the plot and character development that helped position the film as incredibly relevant in 2017. The central protagonist, Belle, was previously depicted as a damsel in distress – a sweet, unassuming young woman with little voice or assertion in the 1991 version. In 2017, Belle, played by all-star Emma Watson, has a stronger voice, standing up for herself and not allowing herself to be shoved aside by other, dominating male characters.
Our beloved Maurice, Belle’s father, was previously seen as crazy for his interest in science and exploration. Yet, despite some allusions to that craziness in this most recent film, Maurice is given a bit more grounding, as the writers show him in a more respected light.
And then there is the Beast’s “back-story.” We weren’t privy to how or why the Beast was so cruel in the original version. But the 2017 creation weaves an intricate tale of how his actions, coupled with his environment, led him to make some poor choices. Not only that, there is a moving scene when Mrs. Potts asserts that the community around the Beast bears some responsibility for the events that have come to pass.
These not-so-subtle adjustments to a familiar plot seem totally normal in 2017. After all, women’s voices are stronger than ever. Embracing a variety of interests that include science, technology and engineering is commonplace. And the notion that a community is responsible for the members within it is a frequent topic of conversation at many of our dinner tables.
There is a nice connection, then, to the Passover story, which we tell annually. Our main characters remain the same: Moses as a leader, with Aaron by his side. Miriam – the woman who led others in song and dance. Pharaoh as the villain whose heart was hardened. Yet, our telling of the Exodus is always framed in the present – how do we take what happened then and apply them as lessons now?
A simple Google search will find hundreds of versions of the Passover Haggadah. Each brings its own perspective and shaping of the story. Our responsibility at the Seder is to retell the story – complete with characters and major plot points – and then bring our own commentary, interpretation and meaning.
This year, it seems likely that some common themes emerging may include how we welcome refugees (for we once wandered the dessert with no home), how we treat “the other” (for we were once strangers in a foreign land), and our mandate to chart a course for a better life (as we did when we entered the Promised Land).
As we begin this holiday together, I encourage you and your family to identify the themes that speak to you. Discuss them, ponder them, challenge one another, and engage in the lively debate, all while remembering to tell the Tale as Old as Time.
Chag Sameach (Happy Holidays),