Throughout our “Why Variety Theatre” blog series, we have shared some very special stories with you from our Variety Kids and Teens involved with the Variety Theatre program. In this final post, we’d like to share a story from the perspective of Berklea Going, who is playing Ariel in this year’s production.
Ten years ago, a young Berklea Going took the Variety Theatre stage as Becky Thatcher in our first production, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This year, she has come full circle, returning to Variety Theatre to star as Ariel in our 2018 production, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, helping us celebrate our 10th anniversary in a big way.
“I was very happy to simply audition for Variety's Disney’s The Little Mermaid, so when I found out I was going to get the chance to return and play such a beloved character, I was thrilled,” says Berklea. “I have such fond memories of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 10 years ago and it is exciting to return home and work on the 10th anniversary production!”
When asked about those fond memories, Berklea shares that her favorite part about Variety Theatre is working with kids and teens of all abilities. She recalls how her first Variety Theatre production helped transform her into who she is now.
One memory in particular involves a rehearsal for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, when a child in a wheelchair was asked to move in a certain way that she had never moved before. Instead of giving up, Berklea shares, this child was determined to make it happen, working hard to perfect the move for the performances.
“This is what altered my perception of one’s abilities,” says Berklea. “If given a chance, the confidence and the opportunity, people can accomplish extraordinary things. This helped shape to shape me into the performer, and overall person, I am today.”
Berklea was so moved by this first experience that she chose to volunteer at Variety’s Adventure Camp in the summer, helping many of the same kids and teens she met and befriended during her time with Variety Theatre. Now, she is thrilled to be back with the production. And she says that it means just as much to her now as it did when she was just starting out as an actress.
“Watching people of differing abilities helping one another toward a common goal of creating a world of make-believe still has the same effect on me today as it did 10 years ago,” she says. “I am still left speechless, smiling at every person involved, and feeling pride and gratitude that I am able to be a part of it.”
“Variety is an incredible organization,” Berklea continues. “Its service to the St. Louis community and the amazing deeds done are seen by many. But the beauty of Variety often goes unseen as well. I see happiness come from the simplest of gestures. I witness hopes and dreams quite literally taking flight on stage with me. There is nothing quite like it.”
You can witness this transformative production for yourself at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, October 18 – 21, 2018. Get your tickets now for Variety Theatre’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid” here.