Sara Bernstein is a Jewish American Princess. On a regular basis, she dons her princess costume and wig, flashes her warm and sparkly smile, and makes little girls’ dreams come true.
Oh, she’s not a JAP kind of princess – she’s the best kind of princess there can be, in the tradition of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and all the derivations through the current and wildly popular Frozenesque princesses.
Sara has established Storybook Entertainment to provide a variety of princess parties for birthdays or group gatherings.
Sara seemed destined for a creative, performing life. Her earliest recollection of singing on stage was when she was about 3. Her mother, Gail Glazer, was the musical director of many productions, and she would regularly find a role for her precocious and talented daughter. Growing up in a Conservative Jewish home in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Sara participated in Kadimah and USY and had a particular affinity for Camp Harlan in the Poconos, where she spent five summers.
“Camp really helped form my Jewish cultural world,” Sara recalls. “I clearly remember learning what a ‘mensch’ is and how to live your life with mensch-like behaviors.”
Sara attended Northwestern University studying musical theater production and stayed in the Chicago area for a while. She met and married Ira Bernstein, and they moved to Maryland where she was an elementary school music teacher for three years.
“In those early years I would do a lot of dinner theater,” she says. “I’d go from teaching all day to waiting tables and performing. I didn’t need sleep then!” she adds with a laugh.
Ira was able to get a job transfer to the Phoenix area and Sara planned to go to Arizona State University for a master’s, but she happened onto a job with Arizona Theatre Company as its education manager.
“It was a dream job,” she recalls. In the five years she was with ATC, the education department under the direction of Samantha Wyer grew from one part-time employee to three full-timers. The number of children they reached grew tenfold. “We actually took Shakespeare to the Navajo Nation,” she says proudly.
While at ATC, Sara had their first son, Dylan. She wanted to spend more time at home and left ATC. But the lure of the stage is strong. Sara began directing for local community theaters such as Desert Foothills Theatre and the Scottsdale children’s theater, Greasepaint. She also charmed audiences as Tzeitle, the oldest daughter in “Fiddler on the Roof,” in 2007 for the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company and again as the Narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 2013 for DFT.
While she certainly has both the vocal and acting “chops” to venture into the professional theaters in town, she says that currently, “My job is my business and my family. I just don’t have the time for those long rehearsal and performance schedules.” She admits she does need sleep now. The family holds a membership at Congregation Or Tzion in Scottsdale.
Last year she was at a birthday party with Dylan, who is now 6, and her younger son, Aaron, now 3. A relative of the birthday girl had dressed as a princess and the youngsters squealed with delight. Sara immediately starting thinking about the talented actresses she knew and how she could put together a professional company to provide these types of princess parties with even more detail and panache. And Storybook Entertainment was born.
She’s developing the business in several directions, offering not only a princess visit, but also calling on her colleagues to create original stories to be performed for those wanting more than the traditional meet and greet. “Our princesses also do face painting and lead crafts. I am willing to provide a variety of characters, but we do insist that they are ‘face characters,’ (meaning) you can see their faces. I had a request for a dinosaur once, and while we provided it, some of the kids actually cried because they were afraid. We’ve done Spiderman, but other than that, we make sure faces are visible. The kids may be shy at first, but at least they won’t cry!”
Sara is happy to provide the superheroes on request, but there hasn’t been a big demand so far. A superhero party geared more to boys includes an obstacle course, mask-making and/or a scavenger hunt. “We are going to be developing Luke and Leia, with the Star Wars movie coming out next year!”
Sara’s company can also provide other aspects of party planning, including decorations, photo backdrops, party favors and such. “If we don’t do it ourselves, we have lots of folks we can recommend. We don’t provide cakes, for example, but know great people who do!” She feels good (mensch-like!) about providing even occasional work to local actors. She’s proud that she uses local costume designers to create the (adjustable) costumes and employs a local wig master as well.
Summer is a slow time for big birthday parties, so Sara is contacting local day camps and other summer programs. “Our plays are perfect for a summer day camp,” she says. “We have three 25-minute-long original stories we can perform with four characters – and the kids love them!”