Congratulations to Laurie Campbell for Winning the May 2022 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

As more live shows and theater continue to open up, let’s talk Broadway! What’s your favorite Broadway production, either that you’ve seen or want to see, and why would you recommend it? Write a letter persuading a fellow writer to go!

Laurie shared the charming story of her own New York City Broadway adventure. Enjoy her winning submission:

I saw my first Broadway show about 15 years ago by winning two theater tickets and a bus trip to New York City.

Now, this was not some obscure show with seats in the nosebleed section. It was The Lion King, and my seat was right on the aisle!

It all came about when I saw an announcement that our local community recreation center was running a contest to rename the organization. The first-place prize was two tickets for any of their one-day bus excursions. Since I always enjoyed puzzling out word games, entering this contest was a no-brainer.

When I learned I’d won, I invited my best friend, and we prepared to visit the Big Apple!

Being curious, I did a little research before we went. In this adaptation of the Disney movie, the cast wears elaborate makeup, costumes, and masks, transforming them into the animal characters. The result is spectacular. “Breathtaking” and “goose bumps” are typical words in the reviews.

Just walking into the lobby gave us tingles of anticipation. But when the lights dimmed and the curtain rose, I was spellbound. I think I was most fascinated by the costumes and makeup. The human actors really “became” the animal characters.

The creative team uses masks to bring the characters to life. In Africa, masks are functional works of art with ceremonial uses.

But the genius twist for this production: The designers intentionally crafted masks and costumes that do not hide the human beings. Some of the characters even have a puppet-like armature that the actors operate, using their bodies.

For example, the masks for the lion characters sit on top of the head like a headdress, revealing the human face underneath. With every mask the audience sees both the mask’s fixed expression and the actor’s changing face. Director Julie Taymor calls this a “double event.”

Fast-forward to the present day and this business of writing. I see the “double event” effect here, too.

Because storytelling is the best way to make details stick with a reader, sometimes it helps to “put on a mask” or assume a character in order to tell a compelling story. The fixed mask is the premise or the framework for the story.

Then, for added depth and connection, allow the reader to peek behind the mask and see that a real human is there. Use empathy and authenticity to give your story that ring of truth and draw them in.

I literally had a front-row seat at one point in the show because I was on the aisle. To my surprise and delight, some of the actors came off the stage and right past me as part of the story line. I truly felt like I was part of the show!

The best stories stay with us, adding richness and meaning to our lives for as long as we remember them. For a truly inspiring and unforgettable experience, go see The Lion King on Broadway!