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The Lightning Thief Musical Hits the Stage

From Director Erica Smith:

I found this popular story by accident. I’d seen the books in stores, but my twin boys weren’t quite old enough to read through them yet. However, two summers ago I stumbled on the new Broadway show, The Lightning Thief (the retelling of the very first book in the Percy Jackson series). I fell in love with the characters, the plot, the music, and the vision of Rick Riordan – and I had to read the book. Not to my boys, but just for myself!
For those of you, who, like me, are new to the Percy Jackson phenomenon, let me set the scene…

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson has struggled for years with feeling like an outsider. After being kicked out of six schools, Percy arrives at Camp Half-Blood (a haven for strange kids who, like him, are half Greek God and half human). Percy is greeted by fellow camper Annabeth, who tells him “You have ADHD, right? Dyslexia, too? Letters just float off the page when you read because your mind is hardwired for ancient Greek. And the ADHD – you’re impulsive, you can’t sit still in class. Those are your battlefield reflexes.” 

I just love this. As an educator and a mother, I have worked with many young people, all individuals, all beautiful in their own way, with their different struggles, challenges, and unique strengths. But the way that this book so precisely articulates the superpowers within perceived “deficits” is supremely exciting to me. For a child to move from believing that there is something inherently wrong with them to a young person who understands that a learning challenge is a difference, not a value judgment placed on their innate being, is my secret work as an arts teacher. As I once said to a former boss: I could be teaching tiddlywinks. It doesn’t matter. What I am really doing is supporting my students in learning how to accept and love themselves, just as they are. As we stretch and grow and attempt to achieve more, the work is also to balance the reaching for greater attainment with the knowledge that we are enough. Right now.

In our production, all of our young people are playing (for the most part) young people. Our 12-year-old Percy is played (and wonderfully so) by a genuine 12-year-old. Our Annabeth, Grover, Clarisse, and Luke are all played by students who are basically the ages of their characters. The story is a metaphor of what many of our young people really go through, albeit heightened with magic, monsters, gods, and sword fighting. 

But the real magic is in the work of real kids: our dedicated cast, who show up every day to learn how to create the world that you will experience next week. They inspire me, they move me, they remind me that they are all dealing with their own hero’s quests, in their own way, with their own unique challenges and struggles; and despite these, they are bravely discovering their very own magical super powers, some tentatively, some roaring out of the gate, some turning the corner just now and saying: Oh! I am enough! And I am ready.