Spring is here! With this new season, comes a special new announcement: To help keep our environment healthy, Camp Broadway is excited to be teaming up with the Broadway Green Alliance in order to encourage theater-loving kids to be more green. Read more about our partnership here!
Soon, the grass will be greener than ever, the birds will be singing, and the bees will be buzzing… hopefully.
In recent years, the population of honeybees has been quickly declining– to the point where environmentalists fear extinction.Not only do bees provide us with honey, but they (along with many other pollinators) also pollinate the plants around us. This means that they help our ecosystem thrive! With the concerns surrounding this current epidemic, a new musical with an exciting mission has emerged:
BUZZ, Son of a Bee: An Actor’s Life For Me!
This original show has been in production in New York City, and aims to knit social change with theater. ”BUZZ is a new musical comedy that joyfully weaves together the lives of eight individuals. As they quest to find their home in the Theatre, they stumble upon an unusual catalyst…bees! A story full of heart, perfect for audiences of all ages, BUZZ, Son of a Bee gently reminds us that a life in the theatre can sting you, but can also be as sweet as honey.” In addition to educating others on the importance of pollinators, BUZZ will also donate money to a different apiary / bee advocacy organization after each performance.
I was lucky to get the opportunity to interview Ariana Johns, the producer and lyricist of the show, who gave me the inside scoop on the show and its efforts to help raise awareness for our buzzing buddies.
You’ve been an essential role to the production team since the very beginnings of BUZZ, Son of a Bee. What has it been like to see this show from the roots to the stage? How has it been to see your lyrics come to life?
JOHNS: “It’s been absolutely magical. Working with Darryl Curry (the composer) has been a delight. From the very beginning, our energies and musical sensibilities merged seamlessly. I’ve written several plays and musical comedy revues that have been produced, but this has been a unique experience, in many ways. And each incarnation throughout the development has been a learning experience, sure, but also a true collaboration–with everyone involved. We have such a wonderful cast, crew and creative team. There’s a strict ‘no-divas’ rul
e when we bring someone new on board, so there’s been minimal drama and lots of fun–over the three+ years of development, we’ve retained most of our cast, largely, I think, because it is such a joy to work together.”
What has been your favorite part of working on this musical?
JOHNS: “I want to say all of it, but actually, I would love to pass the ‘Producer’ hat to someone else and just concentrate on the creative aspect…the writing of the songs has been special, and hearing them sung by such talented performers is amazing, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that being on stage myself (as Carla) wasn’t perhaps my favorite thing…sharing my own words in song with audiences and getting such great response is thrilling. But also, the incredibly special gift of being able to create BUZZ with my parents–we’re all actors and writers, with lots of professional experience, but this is the first time that we’ve all been involved in the same project (my dad is Andrew Johns, the book writer and director, and Evangeline Johns, my mom, practically steals the show as Cora).”
This musical has such a unique theme and morphs social justice into theater. Was there anything in particular about BUZZ, Son of a Bee that initially sparked your interest to work on this progressive show? What is it about BUZZ that sets it apart from other musicals currently onstage?
JOHNS: “We have bees!! There’s a lot about BUZZ that is rooted in traditional musical theatre (which I love)…but as we progressed, the idea that we could create a piece that has social relevance with its focus on environmental issues–and to do it with laughter and music–that became a second heart to the piece itself. I’m not fond of being lectured to–who is? But with BUZZ, I think that the message of how fundamental bees are in the chain of life–as Einstein said, ‘When the bees go, mankind will follow in four years’–we get that message across with a spoonful of honey.”
And OF COURSE, we couldn’t help but discuss some facts about bees!
What would a world without bees be like?
JOHNS: “Actually, all pollinators are crucial–butterflies, bats and hummingbirds being some other notable examples–and BUZZ supports organizations dedicated to their survival as well. My hope is that we can have productions across the country and beyond, and engage in a grass-roots manner with local communities to spread the message that human life is not exclusive to other life–we are absolutely dependent on our fellow living beings to survive. If plants don’t get pollinated, we don’t have food. Bee populations have been declining due to many factors, but a chief one is the use of certain pesticides–ones that are outdated but still widely used, although they’ve been banned in certain countries. There will be lots of information–pamphlets, brochures, and knowledgeable people–at our shows, and I’ll be adding more links on our website.”
Do you have any interesting bee facts that most people don’t know?
JOHNS: “The variety of honey types is dazzling–depending on what plants the bees pollinate, the pollen in the honey will reflect the character of the plant, and raw honey has long been prized for its medicinal and health benefits. Unfortunately, many of the mass-marketed brands are sourced from China, and the pollen is completely removed, along with the associated health benefits. We make sure that the apiaries that we support are ethical and retain the healthy pollen–and you can taste the difference!”
Want to help the bees at home? Here’s Ariana’s advice!
JOHNS: “Lately, saving the bees has become a popular cause. There are many resources that can instruct you on planting bee-friendly gardens, and other helpful things you can do. Planet Bee Foundation has a lot on their site, as does Xerces Society, and many others– we list several links on our site, as well as petitions you can sign…many organizations let you virtually adopt a hive, which is helpful for city-dwellers like myself.”
Looking to celebrate the coming of spring? Check out the show! BUZZ, Son of a Bee: An Actor’s Life For Me will be holding performances March 23rd – April 2nd at the Sargent Theatre! Tickets can be bought online. For Camp Broadway readers, BUZZ is offering DISCOUNTED tickets! Use the promo code BEEFRIEND for a $10 ticket.
A special thank you to Eric Gelb and Ariana Johns for coordinating and participating in this interview!