Why Theater Should Join the Dark Side (of Fairy Tales)

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

Read Part 1: Why do Theaters Dumb Down TYA (Theater for Young Audiences)?

Caleb Foote and Angela Giarratana in “Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass” (Photo: Cooper Bates)

Hamlet – Inspiration Playlist

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.

New YA Fantasy to read: The Meddlers of Moonshine

I got a little peek at the cover for a new YA Fantasy, The Meddlers of Moonshine by A.E. Decker. It’s the second in the Moonlight Mayhem series.

I love the synopsis (below) and description of the series by another author, Susan Sullivan:

“I’d say it’s like Shrek meets The Wizard of Oz if Dorothy were Wednesday Addams and Toto a talking cat with bat wings.”

Sounds very cool. Fairy tale mashups are an obsession of mine and after reading some more of Decker’s work, it sounds like she’s a real find for me! In fact, I would have posted this sooner but I was gobbling up her other stories.

The Meddlers of Moonshine will be available on October 25. Until then, check out the ebook for the first in this series, The Falling of the Moon, available for $0.99 for a limited time.

Here’s the summary:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00003]Something is rotten in the town of Widget, and Rags-n-Bones knows it’s all his fault.

Ever since he snitched that avocado from Miss Ascot’s pack, things have been going wrong. Armed with a handful of memories he never realized he had, Rags-n-Bones searches for a way to put right whatever he did to Widget in the past. If only he knew what it was! Unfortunately, the only person who seems to have answers is a half-mad youth that only Rags can see.

Widget is also suffering from a ghost infestation that has the townsfolk almost as spooked of outsiders as they are of actual spooks. While Rags-n-Bones seeks answers in the past, Ascot offers the town leaders her service as an exorcist, only to be handed an ultimatum: banish the ghosts or be banished herself!

Who’s meddling with Widget? To catch the culprit, Ascot and Rags-n-Bones must match wits with a shifty sorcerer, a prissy ex-governess, and a troublingly attractive captain before the town consigns itself to the graveyard of history.


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Decker Author Photo

A. E. Decker hails from Pennsylvania. A former doll-maker and ESL tutor, she earned a master’s degree in history, where she developed a love of turning old stories upside-down to see what fell out of them. This led in turn to the writing of her YA novel, The Falling of the Moon. A graduate of Odyssey 2011, her short fiction has appeared in such venues as Beneath Ceaseless SkiesFireside Magazine, and in World Weaver Press’s own Specter Spectacular. Like all writers, she is owned by three cats. Come visit her, her cats, and her fur Daleks at wordsmeetworld.com or@MoonfallMayhem.

Reader Review: Dorothy Must Die

I had a hard time getting into Amy, the protagonist. At first, I thought it was because we

had so little in common; then I realized that I felt too close to her experiences being bullied (though my family situation is quite different). I purposely distanced myself from her pain because we had similar high school experiences. 

Once we’re into the story and her training, though, I flew through it. Struggling with who to believe and having a real stake in who is good vs who is evil is a pretty great hook. I do wish there was a little more dimension to Dorothy, but I suppose that’s how the original villain (Wicked Witch of the West) is portrayed…and that’s why we have prequels

It’s hard not to compare re-tellings, so Gregory Maguire’s Wicked kept popping into my brain. I mostly thought about it when Paige described the settings, and how differently Oz appears in both books versus THE MOVIE. They are not at all the same stories, thankfully, with Paige focusing on magic within the politics of Oz. Every character introduced keeps you guessing, and it may be the most interesting interpretation of Dorothy’s companions as I’ve ever seen. I also became interested in reading Baum’s original books, which is always a good sign in a re-telling.

More details on Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige at Goodreads

Sorting Stories: Cinderella

This blog was originally posted on the LA FPI (Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative) website

Last Friday was rough. For a lot of reasons. Just a rough day.

And then, surprise! A package came in the mail and it was the Disney dvd of Cinderella, a longtime desire for me to own. Being named Cindy, Cinderella was an obvious nickname (even though it was longer than my name, so probably doesn’t qualify within the strictest of definitions). I was Cinderella for Halloween, fiercely desired her to be brunette, and the default gifts when no one knew what to get me – Cinderella swag.

My parents even went so far as to commission a Cinderella travelling up the hill to the Prince’s castle cake for their version of my wedding reception. It was a pretty good rendition, even if a little crooked, causing us to speed up dinner so the castle wouldn’t fall before we cut it.

I’d also become really interested in the Cinderella story with recent re-watches of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, where her name is Sapsorrow. More on that later, but let’s just say I understand why the father is usually minimal if ever in the stories we hear more recently, since they’re almost made to commit incest.

It’s no secret I am stocking up on my movie collection to show my future son or daughter. But now….not so sure.

It’s a perfectly fun little tale as told by Disney, and certainly in line with the time it was made. I remembered of course, that it wasn’t as dark as Sapsorrow, who is almost forced to marry her father, runs away to become a scullery maid in the palace (undercover as an incredibly hairy ‘thing’), meets the Prince first as this creature and teaches him some lessons in true beauty before revealing herself to also be the woman he’s adored these last three nights at the ball.

Sapsorrow below stairs

The Prince in Sapsorrow actually has an arc. As opposed to what’s-his-name-but-yeah-he’s-a-good-dancer. As a viewer of Sapsorrow, I didn’t really like this Prince at first, and

Sapsorrow above stairs

changed my mind as his character changed. That’s brilliant storytelling.

Disney struggled with both the animation and characters of princes in their first movies (Snow White commentary captures this beautifully), and choosing to fluff the story with mice and cats and dogs certainly worked for me as a child. As short as her back-story is in Once Upon a Time, that Cinderella’s motive was more out of the desire to leave her horrid life than love. Disney has the fairy godmother, Sapsorrow has no such thing in Jim Henson’s version, and in OUAT, Ella’s fairy godmother is snuffed out by Rumplestiltskin, causing her to make an oath it seems she never really plans to keep. At that point, she doesn’t even know the Prince will fall in love with her; Ella just thinks one night at a ball will make her feel better about her dreary life.

I just come out of the whole thing much more a Sapsorrow fan than any other. I haven’t even begun to dig into all the versions that Once Upon a Blog details, and for some reason, the Cinderella in Into the Woods didn’t really factor into my thinking on her character. I know that I thoroughly approved of her giving her Prince the door once she heard of his cheating. I never liked stories where someone takes back a cheater, male or female.

I don’t plan on not showing my future child the Disney movie. I just think s/he will see Sapsorrow soon after, or even before watching Disney’s. I remember being scared out of my mind by some of those Jim Henson’s The Storyteller episodes, and also know how they enriched my feelings on fairy tales and telling stories.

Since I love hearing different versions of the same story, I’ll open these variations for discussion if my child has questions, and encourage us to find more and even write our own stories. I guess it’s never too early to learn that you change the story based on your own point-of-view or audience, or that you have control over stories you want to tell, just by speaking them out loud or picking up a pen.

Update: This was written before I gave birth to my son. I’ve since learned that Disney prince-charming-cinderellatweaked their story for a post war world. This explains why royalty is decked out in military fantasy gear and virtue, doing good, being good, prevails above evil.

And my son did watch the Disney’s Cinderella first, and he adored the mice and music and cat and dog. He danced along and got very worried when she ran down the paalce stairs just after midnight. So, not surprising, Disney and his story team really knew what they were doing.