December 03, 2013

Cut the Lights

by Karen Krossing
Orca Book Publishers
129 pp.
Ages 11-14
October, 2013

Briar may only be in Grade 10 at the Whitlock School of the Arts, but she already knows that she wants a career as a director.  And being selected one of the seven students to direct a play–in fact, her best friend Ratna's play "Wish Upon a Star"–at Whitlock's Fringe Festival is an auspicious beginning.  But negotiations with the other directors, most more experienced than herself, for the available actors leads to some animosity when Briar doesn't follow protocol and offers Sonata, the best actor at school, the lead role.

Even knowing that "Casting is a balance between the ideal and the real" (pg. 22), Briar seems to be struggling with her crew: Sonata, who gives far too much advice; Mica, her male lead who is too infatuated with Sonata to think straight; Clayton, her rather drab star, who breaks his arm; and George, her stage manager, who is too often distracted from doing his job.  When gossip starts that Ratna's play is cursed, Briar learns the trick to directing is empowering her cast and crew, and recognizing that her vision can be adapted to others' ideas and feelings.

While young readers will enjoy the performing arts aspect of Cut the Lights and other titles in Orca's new Limelights series, it is still the characters that will grab their attention and their hearts.  Karen Krossing's Briar may come across as pushy and bossy but it's just the director in her.  When things seem to be falling apart, she knows enough to get some advice about teamwork and reins herself in for the good of the production.  Surprisingly, it's by looking at her team as individuals beyond their roles that ultimately leads to success.  Without making Briar altruistic or unbelievable, Karen Krossing has created a character who learns to make good choices by considering others' needs, something most of us should do more often.  Those choices make the production a success and mark Briar as a true leader.  I can say the same for Cut the Lights and Karen Krossing, respectively.

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