ONCE UPON A TIME Enters The Dark Woods Of Cautionary Tales In GTA's Discovery Series
"Once Upon a time" enters the dark woods of cautionary tales in unconventional fairy tale adaptations in GTA's Discovery Series
In a time of Disney adaptations and intense psychological scrutiny, is there anything new to be gained from telling fairy tales again? For playwright Mary Zimmerman, enchantment and fear are still to be explored in The Secret in the Wings, a theatrical work that dramatizes fairytales in a way unlike anything before. This grown-up fairy tale experience, which is free and general admission, runs Nov. 10-13 at UNG-Gainesville's Ed Cabell Theatre, 3820 Mundy Mill Rd., Oakwood.
One night, a child listens to bedtime stories read by her frightening babysitter. As they're read aloud, each of the fairy tales are brought to life onstage with minimalist theatrical ingenuity. Zimmerman takes us back to the time when uncensored fairy tales were more about magic and apprehension than about the characters themselves.
The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is the nationally acclaimed collaboration between University of North Georgia, Brenau University, theatre Professionals and the northeast Georgia community. The GTA Discovery Series is an alternate - and often more experimental - stage frequently featuring smaller-scale professional productions and contemporary scripts that showcase a new paradigm of storytelling.
Zimmerman has a resume of theatrical wizardry that includes many adapted stage works: she was the playwright behind GTA's previous production of Metamorphoses and the forthcoming The Odyssey, which GTA will produce in April 2018. In fact, new GTA faculty member Zechariah Pierce was drawn to this script for his GTA directorial debut as a result of his work as an undergraduate cast member in GTA's 2007 production of Zimmerman's Metamorphoses.
"Mary Zimmerman has an innate ability to paint beautiful imagery with her words, which is particularly magical when dealing with Grimm's fairy tales or Greek myths," said Pierce. Zimmerman's devotion to original text and strong sense of stage awe is invaluable to creating a show that revolves around the darker side of imagination. Pierce stated that the original Grimm's fairy tales, and their dark undertones, should be the best frame of reference for parents deciding to bring their children.
Fairy tales bring different characters to mind for different people, but in this show fairy tales are less about favorite princesses and recognizable names like Prince Charming and more about the first stories children hear that truly spark their imagination.
"While something like Into the Woods focuses so much on character, plot, and the lesson learned therein, our show is more geared toward the experience of getting lost in a story. As children, we don't always understand every nuance of the stories we're told, but there's a sacredness to that familiar ritual," Pierce explained.
The art of story-telling as invoked in this play requires a sense of play among all of the performers. Pierce, who went on to earn his MFA at the University of Virginia and has worked professionally on stage and film since graduating from Brenau, comes to this show with a background in clowning and movement, informing much of the way his team is approaching the challenge of playing multiple characters.
Playing with household items is another device used for the production that helps multiple stories to be told seamlessly and keeps actors on their toes. Props master Surena Arnall was excited to creatively integrate many odd pieces into the set to bring the stories to life.
"The audience should definitely know that all the props in this show are things that can be found in a household basement. We aimed to place these things on the set and disguise them as hidden pieces in order for them to quickly grab them and continue with the story," Arnall said.
Ultimately, as a work of theatre, the show relies on live performers' sense of play to refresh audiences' imagination. "We often lose the ability to play as we grow older, but I always find that my best work is when it comes from a place that allows play," said director Pierce. As adults, we can steel ourselves when evil shows its face, but in that wide-eyed time of childhood, the line between reality and fantasy is delightfully, and sometimes alarmingly, fluid.
The play performs at 7:30pm, Nov. 10-13, free of charge and with general admission at UNG Gainesville's Ed Cabell Theatre. Patrons can arrive in the evening any time after 6:30pm to check-in, with theatre doors opening at 7:10pm. The rest of the GTA season of theatre can be seen at www.gainesvilleTHEATREalliance.org. Call the Box Office with questions at 678.717.3624, Monday - Friday from 10am to 4pm.