Here’s the second column in my series asking why theaters dumb down their shows for kids. Since this one focuses on fairy tales, I want to share it with my readers here.
Let’s delve into a pretty common denominator in the world of theater for young audiences (TYA): fairy tales. There is no end to internet lists “revealing” or “discovering” the dark origins of fairy tales, yet it is so surprising that, once upon a time, we actually told children scary stories? Shocking!
Many of the original versions of fairy tales were told to help children and adults confront the very real dangers of their times. Hansel and Gretel is an excellent example and very likely the most well known: it’s famine and hunger that motivate the mother or stepmother (depending on the version) to convince her husband to abandon his children in the woods. Most stage productions hide that part of the tale. It is fear of the darkness inherent in the stories that can cause playwrights to move too far in the other, more saccharine direction, leading to meaningless takes on fairy tales that now feel like the norm. When we remove fear from a fairy tale — or any story — we remove its connection to our lives, and that dumbing down affects theater audiences for a lifetime. Without true connections to our own feelings, fears and joys, why bother attending?
Read more at The Clyde Fitch Report.
Caleb Foote and Angela Giarratana in “Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass” (Photo: Cooper Bates)
In that Talks at Google with Patrick Rothfuss from my last post, he answers a question dear to my heart. I usually discuss it in relation to children’s theatre, but it holds. They’re smarter than you think.
Audience Question: How hard is it to make hard fantasy versus soft fantasy for children?
Rothfuss: There’s an unfortunate tendency among people in general to say, oh, I’ll just write a fantasy novel because you can just make stuff up. And that’s wrong, because that’s not – you can just do a bunch of stuff and magic will make it make sense. You can, but that’s not good writing, it’s not good storytelling, it’s not good craft.
In my opinion, similarly, people, sometimes, in the genre, are like, well, boy, I wish I could write YA because then kids don’t know what a plot hole is, they don’t care about consistent characterization, they’re not gonna call me on the million dragons ecology problem that I’ve created, this is not a sustainable eco-structure. But that, in my opinion, is a really egregious cop-out. Because in the same way that food that we feed our children should be actually held to a higher standard than the food you give to an adult, because an adult can say, blech, this is awful, or they can read the label and go, oh, this has terrible things in it and it’s going to make me sick and give me cancer. A kid can’t.
And so you owe it to kids to actually put more work into this because it’s harder to write short. It’s harder to write simply [sic]. It’s harder to do a lot of these things, and it’s harder to write cohesive, coherent, internally coherent fantasy. And you shouldn’t go to YA thinking, oh, my, this will be way easier. I can just bang out 30,000 words and then go play World of Warcraft.
I do not approve.
But then again, I have not really taken a legitimate crack at YA. I know that it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try for it. That’s my philosophy.”
When I’m marketing and not working on my writing directly, I need a different kind of inspiration than writing playlists. This is actually a time when You Tube’s suggested videos help me a lot. I can listen to authors at various talks, or documentaries of my favorite movies. Here’s a little sample:
The host of this Google Talk is really awkward sometimes, but Rothfuss is so gracious and adorably intelligent.
I find this series on Pixar very helpful while I prepare for revisions or am stuck. They’re short enough that I can use them during a snack break to remind me of something I’m missing and inspirational enough to really keep me on track.
What inspires you?
I typically move from “Momming” directly into writing, and sometimes need to do both at once. I use music to help with that transition, or inspirational You Tube playlists.
Since Marissa Meyer of The Lunar Chronicles is a huge influence on me, her writing playlist easily gets me into the mood of my Horatio story. It starts with Firefly, for criminy’s sake.