Theater Alumna’s New Musical Combines Anne Rice Novels
By Larry Getlen
In Disney's classic "Beauty and the Beast," the heroine, Belle, walks through her provincial town enchanted by that most mystical and enticing of objects – a book. Belle skips rope, pats a child's head, and alertly evades a dousing from a drain pipe without ever lifting her gaze from the wondrous words in her hands. Unbeknownst to the millions of children (and adults) around the world who have been enchanted by this feisty young lass, she was not completely imaginary. The very real inspiration for that scene was the film's screenwriter, Linda Woolverton.
"I remembered that when I was a kid, I used to walk to the store for my mom, and I wouldn't stop reading — I would keep reading to get the milk," says the red-haired Cal State Fullerton alumna. "It was important that Belle be a reader, but Disney thought she'd be too inactive. So the idea was that she wouldn't sit around, but would walk through town reading a book."
A petite bundle of energy, Woolverton '79 (M.A. theater) exuded creativity early on, directing plays in the fourth grade and co-writing her first play in junior high school with the program director of a local theater group. "I've always had this huge imagination, and we just started conjuring stuff up," she recalls from the lobby of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where she stays while working on her newest musical, Lestat. "I would lay on a table and he would walk around. We hit it right off."
Woolverton earned a degree in theater arts from Cal State Long Beach, then joined the master's program at Cal State Fullerton, with a concentration on theater for children. "I loved the child audience," she says. "I understood them and loved performing for them, and it came naturally to me. I had an instinctual understanding of how to entertain them."
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