A beast of a show

UF medical students perform “Beauty and the Beast” for pediatric patients Feb. 16. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

UF medical students perform “Beauty and the Beast” for pediatric patients Feb. 16. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

On Feb. 16, a group of UF medical students brought a tale as old as time to patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

The physicians-in-training transformed the inpatient unit’s gathering room into a French castle, complete with a bookish princess, a misunderstood beast and an army of talking furniture in their rendition of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

The actors were part of the College of Medicine’s White Coat Company, a theater troupe of students who take a break from the books once each year to put on several performances for the Gainesville community.

This year’s cast consisted of 45 students — 35 actors and 10 musicians — who handled everything from choreography to costumes. The group held daily rehearsals at lunchtime, along with afterschool and weekend practices, to perfect the performance.

“Staying in the hospital can be so challenging for the kids, so I was delighted that not only could we distract them from their illness, but we could also actively engage them,” said second-year medical student Amber Mirajkar, who directed this year’s show. “There was one time the Beast roared, and a little boy in the audience roared back. I also realized at the pediatric performance that we were treating more than just the children — we were helping the staff and ourselves, too.

“Nurses, volunteers and residents are constantly surrounded by illness,” Mirajkar continued, “so I was happy we could entertain them, too, and remind them of stories and experiences beyond the hospital.”

Aside from the performance at the inpatient unit of the children’s hospital, the students also took the stage at the Tacachale Center, a local facility for adults with developmental disabilities, and invited friends and family to a performance in the Medical Sciences Building Auditorium Feb. 19.

“Watching the students grow over the past five months was one of the greatest rewards to me,” Mirajkar said. “I was so proud of the cast after the show, not necessarily because the show was a success but rather because they had given it their all — they had improved so much and everyone had fun.”

All photos by Jesse S. Jones. To view more photos from the “Beauty and the Beast” performance, visit Facebook.com/ufdrgator.