Eric Schaeffer
Theater director

Eric Schaeffer

Co-founder and artistic director for Signature Theatre in Arlington, which won the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award for sustained artistic excellence.

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Sing It!

Q: Last week, Caressa Cameron, a 22-year-old student from Virginia, was crowned Miss America, a pageant that once epitomized a certain kind of beauty, talent and promise. Is this kind of contest completely outdated, or does it offer a legitimate path to success for the young women who compete?

I can remember watching the Miss America Pageant as a kid with my family as an annual event. We'd always try and pick the winner and then never really heard about it again for another year.

As our times have changed, the pageant has not. And so, I think that this has harmed it immensely. In any entertainment business, you're always trying to be ahead of the curve on what audiences will respond to. Reality television has actually taken over from Miss America, in a way, by weekly pageants that are produced.

We end up seeing a form of pageants every week on television, from American Idol to The Biggest Loser to The Amazing Race. People are competing and showing their best, but in a different way. What the Miss America team needs to figure out is how to infuse that everyday energy into something that makes their pageant shine again.

I think the other part of the equation has to do with the actual winner. Caressa Cameron can use this new title to be a strong leader in her AIDS prevention work. This is where she can become successful in taking a strong role in working with AIDS organizations across this country and bringing awareness to this problem. It will really be on her shoulders to become a national spokesperson.

She has the title and the connections and now she needs the endless energy to make it work. She needs to think outside of the box, and use her singing talents to bring a new awareness to Miss America. People respond to music.

Instead of just giving speech after speech, give us song after song. Entertain us and teach us at the same time. Get away from the boring podium with the crown and let us see the person and the spirit. She needs to reinvent how the public is introduced to Miss America.

She is able to give new life to an old institution, which will make people sit up and become aware if she really takes advantage of the opportunity that she has been given. So many times in these situations, it's up to the individual to take the ball and run with it.

So it's really in Caressa's hands. If she is ready for the challenge, she has not only the insight to make a difference in her role, but also to bring new life to an age-old institution. I say shake it up, sing it -- and she'll be more than successful.

By Eric Schaeffer  |  February 8, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  Pageants' relevance Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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