In the Spotlight


Madeleine Nicks and Amara Murphy

An interview with Drama teacher Dana Caldwell on all the details and highlights of the upcoming production of the musical “Once Upon a Mattress.”

What motivated you to pick “Once Upon A Mattress” as this year’s musical?

I was inspired to chose “Once Upon A Mattress” for this year’s musical because of the whimsical and completely zany characters in this show! I was also very excited to turn our Spaulding stage into a castle!

Can you give us a little summary of what to expect?

It’s the story of The Princess and the Pea, like you’ve never heard before! With a Minstrel, Jester, and Silent King, to name just a few of these hilarious medieval characters, you can expect lots of laughs!

What makes your collaboration with Jillian Honorof so unique?

It is a rare and special thing to find someone who you collaborate so well with, especially when you’re both so different and bring such different skill sets to the table. These differences really are the secret to our successful collaboration, and help us both to be better artists and better teachers. Above all else, we share the same vision for our students: we want to give them the tools they need to pursue the performing arts as far as their dreams will take them (and have some fun along the way!)

What part of the play are you most looking forward to seeing played out on stage?

We have a group dance number called the “Spanish Panic” that is going to be a blast (into which, by the way, we’ve managed to sneak a few moves from the Hand Jive because who can get enough of Grease.) Design wise, I’m really excited to see how we pull off all the mattresses on stage!

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

Spending so much time with my students! I feel so lucky, every single day, that I get to do what I do here at Laguna, with these amazing, brilliant, and crazy-talented students!

How does working with student actors affect your job?

In directing students, the goal is not perfection, as it would be in the professional world; the goal is individual growth. Students bring such diverse experience with them into the theatre—whether it’s a student who has never been on stage before or one who is planning on auditioning for college, my goal is to give them the experience and tools that they need to reach their optimal potential.

And to me, being witness to that growth is pure magic and far surpasses perfection.