Island Theater Workshop invites you to ‘Be Our Guest’ at ‘Beauty and the Beast’

—Max Bossman

Cutlery comes alive in Island Theatre Workshop’s (ITW) rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.” “People are dressed as giant five-foot plates, forks, and knives. We have two seven- or eight-foot-tall whisks,” director Kevin Ryan said. “Getting them into the costumes is difficult, and it has to happen quickly.”

The effect onstage, however, is storybook-esque. The opening number is performed in front of a background depicting a quintessential village, nestled in the countryside, with colorful Tudor-style buildings. It’s the kind of place where it is natural to break into a perfectly choreographed, but utterly spontaneous, town singalong about provincial life.

“People who come to see this show want to see the actors,” stage manager Sebastian Corwin said. “They don’t want a set that’s so busy and confusing that you can barely see what’s going on onstage. That’s why we kept the set relatively simple.”

There is a precision and a restraint the stage crew has used to design the set. Lighting changes suggest different rooms, while the backdrops remain the same for multiple scenes, and the few set pieces are purposeful. The show opened on July 30 at 7:30 pm at the Performing Arts Center and runs through August 6, so the cast and crew are in a hell week of sorts, trying to nail those last transitions and perfect those final costumes.

Many late nights have gone into setmaking, rehearsals, costume design, and all the other pieces that come together to create a professional production. The long hours spent in read-throughs and blocking scenes has produced a family. Stephanie Burke, a board member of Island Theater Workshop who is also acting in “Beauty and the Beast,” said, “What’s really nice about this company is that we don’t really have any prima donnas. It takes a lot of collaboration to make something like this happen.”

Mr. Corwin agreed. “I lean more toward community theater, because the people are more laid back,” he said. “It’s a much better atmosphere at ITW. Everyone wants to be here, rather than they’re contractually obligated to be here, or they’re getting paid to be here. It’s not a job, it’s something that people love to do, and it’s something that they choose to do.”

The cast and crew is made up of Islanders and off-Islanders, all working as volunteers, ages ranging from 8 to 87. Everyone has a day job, whether it’s as an investment banker or a barista. These people probably would have never met had it not been for ITW and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Tim Daniels and Jake Sudarsky, playing Gaston and LeFou respectively, didn’t know each other before acting in this show. Mr. Sudarsky said, “The biggest challenge I find is making sure [Tim] doesn’t laugh on stage while I’m being a goofy idiot.”

“Basically,” Mr. Daniels broke in, “Kevin told me a couple of rehearsals ago that I have too much of a modern smile and that Gaston wouldn’t have had that.”

The real magic in this show comes from the people, their energy, and their enthusiasm to be on the stage supported by the rest of the group. Costume designer, assistant stage manager, and actress Gwenn Mead said, “If someone came up to me and told me to sew all of these costumes, I would have said, ‘Get lost, you’re out of your mind.’ It’s a labor of love, a love for the theater and a love for the people that are in it.”

Island Theater Workshop’s “Beauty and the Beast”: July 30, July 31, August 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center, 7:30 pm. Meet-and-greet matinee with photo opportunities Sunday, July 31, at 2 pm. For tickets and more information, call 508-737-8550, 508-627-2456, or visit