I was never a huge fan of Cinderella. I couldn’t understand why my friends were so eager to act it out when we were kids. The beginning of the story seemed to be all about cleaning — and I hated cleaning! I really didn’t like the idea of having evil stepsisters. And, as a night owl, I shuddered at the idea of having to leave a ball before midnight. I never felt the fancy dress and handsome prince were worth all the trouble.
Yet, throughout my adult life, Cinderella keeps popping up when I least expect her: from informal games to choosing a season, our audience cries out for Cinderella!
While researching Joseph Campbell and the interconnectedness of stories across cultures, I happened upon this play by Lowell Swortzell. In this version, the Cinderella most of us know provides the framework to tell three Cinderella tales from three different cultures. I knew it would be a great fit for our theatre.
The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine has won national recognition for our cultural policy work. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I know conversations about culture are necessary but also potentially difficult. Representing other cultures onstage can go terribly wrong. The Morton Kelly Foundation provided us with a grant allowing us to work with cultural consultants to guide and inform our process. The time, patience and wisdom of Sergei Slussky, Connie Zhu, and Meghan Yates made this play what you see today: three different versions of Cinderella coming together in one dynamic and honest production.
Through this rehearsal process, I’ve come to appreciate the story of Cinderella. Cinderella The World’s Favorite Fairy Tale illuminates how different cultures teach similar values to their children. Vasalisa, Yeh Shen and Broken Wing all represent “the ideal girl”. When faced with meanness, trials, and injustice, Cinderella is patient, kind and brave. Supernatural elements — whether a fairy godmother, a magic fish, a talking doll, or an invisible hunter — recognize and reward her hard work and solid character. Despite differences in culture, the wisdom of this fairy tale is universal. Enjoy the show!
Reba Short, Theatre Artistic Director