Theater Production Features A Female Entrepreneurial Twist

By Brooke McAfee The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A local production of "Rumpelstilskin" features a new spin on the classic fairy tale -- the miller's daughter, who is typically unnamed in the story, is given a name and independence in this version.

NEW ALBANY

A revamped fairy tale adaptation has offered messages of female empowerment and entrepreneurship for local kids and families this week.

The Commonwealth Theater Center (CTC) has been presenting its production of "Rumpelstiltskin" during a weeklong residency at The Ogle Center at Indiana University Southeast.

The play features a new spin on the classic fairy tale -- the miller's daughter, who is typically unnamed in the story, is given a name and independence in this version. The play began its run Tuesday, and the final performances will take place Saturday for a full house.

The play is part of the Ogle Center's Children and Family Series, and it was performed by CTC's Blue Apple Outreach Touring Company. Tickets were offered free to schools and the public due to donations from the Duke Energy Foundation, the Ogle Center, the Walter and Hazel Bales Foundation and the Cochran Foundation.

Mera Kathryn Corlett, the playwright and director of the show, said "Rumpelstiltskin" was her favorite fairy tale as a child, and it was the first play she ever watched. As she revisited this familiar story, she wanted to tell it from the perspective of a strong female character.

"What's interesting about this story is that it's kind of a fairy tale and a problem story all in one, so you have the magical element with a spinning wheel turning straw into gold, but then she goes and has this name guessing section -- it's almost like two plays in one. When I wanted to come back and do it, I just couldn't imagine a woman being threatened by the king three times and still marrying him, so I thought, what would happen if she didn't marry the king?"

In Corlett's play, the main character doesn't want to be a queen, but instead, she decides to run her own business. She is simply the daughter of a miller in the original story, but in this version, she runs her own water mill to create textiles and creates jobs for other women in her community.

"I've noticed in my life that women are emerging as business leaders and really taking their place in leadership roles," she said. "I thought, we should have a fairy tale that expresses that idea too."

The play is a musical with original songs by Jacqui Blue, who is also the lead actress. The new production made its debut with the Ogle Center performances this week, and kids came with their schools and families from both Southern Indiana and Kentucky.

Names play a significant role in the story, Corlett said, so they named the main character Sonia, which means wisdom. In some cultures, the name means gold.

"In the tradition of fairy tales, you don't traditionally have names very often, unless it's central to the story," she said. "The central part of this story is, of course, the name of Rumpelstiltskin. No other characters get a name in the narrative. The play reveals [the main character's] name, because names are important. One of the first things children learn about themselves is their name, and it's central to our identity. What does it mean when someone doesn't have a name and representation, so that's what that whole element does in the story."

On Thursday morning, CTC and the Duke Energy Foundation recognized four entrepreneurial girls from Greenville Elementary School, Phoebe Caple, Nevin Ott, Chelsea Downs and Meaghan Cape. The girls, all of whom are in the second grade, were surprised after a performance of the play and given "red carpet treatment" as they met Corlett and the cast members. One girl worked with her family to donate yard sale proceeds to a nonprofit, and another asked for donations to charity instead of gifts at her birthday party.

Lisa Huber, government and community relations manager at Duke Energy, said it was the girls' "moment to shine" since they share the same entrepreneurial spirit as the main character in "Rumpelstiltskin."

"We just thought, like her, they're clever, they're resourceful, they're confident," she said. "The young woman is an entrepreneur in this version [of the play] and makes a name for herself, so we wanted to do something for some of the students who were at that performance to recognize them for their outstanding efforts,"

Corlett wants the updated story of "Rumpelstiltskin" to inspire its audience and show them them they have "the capacity to solve big problems." The four girls from Greenville Elementary were excited to meet the cast of the play after Thursday's production, she said.

"We recognize that the stories that we tell can inspire -- young people are doing this work at their own level, and the girls that we honored [Thursday] are girls who are not only community-minded, but also are creative in ways they can give back," she said. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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