Arts
Arts Programs

Bringing the Enchanted Rose to Life: A Tale of Innovation and Collaboration

Kim Gendron, Social Media Coordinator

There are many wonderful characters in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – Belle, Gaston, Cogsworth, Lumiere, and the Beast himself, to name a few – but it is arguably the rose that holds the entire plot together. Silent yet menacing, the rose with its falling petals, is a constant reminder that our characters are moving ever closer towards their doom.
 
So last spring, when the Arts department announced that Beauty and the Beast would be the US Musical in 2024, Director Reed Halvorson, immediately knew that one of his main tasks would be to figure out how to bring the enchanted rose to life.
 
Enter Chris Lipp.
 
After a casual conversation over lunch, Chris - beloved CCES Upper School Technology Instructor - offered to help Reed and the Arts department with any animation needs they might have. Reed didn’t hesitate. They needed an enchanted rose, programmed with the ability to have petals falling throughout the production. Despite having zero knowledge of the story of Beauty and the Beast and little prior theatre exposure, Chris too did not hesitate. He did what he has always done at CCES -- he jumped in, excited to figure it out.

From the start, Chris was brainstorming ways to get a student involved, and Nathan Salamin ’24 immediately came to mind. Nathan has taken a number of technology classes with Chris over his four years and was going to be in his spring Robotics class. Chris wanted to make it Nathan’s semester project, but the early February deadline was going to make it a tight turnaround. The two were undeterred, spending many E periods and lunch breaks working on the rose to get it ready in time for Tech Week.
 
Together with Reed, they discussed a number of designs, and settled on the idea of electromagnets. The final rose utilizes eight small magnets to hold petals to the stem of the flower, with a control panel that sits under the podium. Using a remote control off stage, the crew would be able to release a single petal at particular times during the show. Nathan took the lead on coding, which runs on the central processor in the control board, while Chris helped with wiring. Nathan says that it took a lot of “trial and error,” but the process taught him how to code more efficiently as well as the technical skills needed for the wiring. Once they figured out how the rose would work, they set about designing what it would look like
 
The challenge was creating a rose that not only held all of the magnets, but looked as natural as possible. According to Nathan, it was “not an easy project,” but the end product was worth it. He felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment once he saw how well it worked on stage. In a fun twist of events, Nathan, who has been a member of the stage crew in a number of musicals over his high school years, was able to be the person running the remote control backstage during the final productions.
 
It’s safe to say that Chris also had a blast working on this project, with all the hard work paying off with a seamless install (with the assistance of Mr. John King, CCES Technical Director) and perfect functionality once the wiring was complete. In addition to seeing the final product in action at the Faculty Preview, Chris was also able to finally learn how Beauty and the Beast ends! Having never seen the film or play, Chris had wondered: “Does the Beast die?” “Does the last petal fall?” (Spoiler alert, it’s a happy ending!)
 
Congratulations to our cast and crew for three phenomenal shows and a big thank you to Nathan and Chris for helping bring this central theme to life with innovation and creativity.
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