Fans of playwright and director Mary Zimmerman and anyone who loves dark fairy tales are in for a treat next month when Stages Theatre opens its production of “The Secret in the Wings” which premieres October 5th.
The new production, the 2014 play’s Orange County premiere, also serves as an introduction to Zimmerman for those unfamiliar with her: She specializes in creating theatrical works that adapt or recombine various classical and pre-classical works – “The Odyssey,” “The Notebooks of Leonardo DiVinci,” “Arabian Nights” and, most notably, “Metamorphoses,” her Tony Award-winning adaptation of Ovid’s myths.
“Secret” has been described as “a captivating voyage into our collective childhood subconscious” and “a vivid staging of European fairy tales retold in the imaginative and colorful style” for which Zimmerman is acclaimed.
The play, which weaves elements from “Beauty and the Beast” with several lesser-known stories into a dream-like exploration of the darker side of human impulses, invites adults to immerse themselves in a rare and magical storybook experience.
The play’s director, Stages Theatre board president Patti Cumby, said that the fairy tales depicted “are not your typical bedtime diversions for children.” She describes “Secret” as “a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of navigating the adult world.”
Actors rehearse choreography for “The Secret in the Wings”. Photo by Kirk Schenk Huff.
Cumby said that the well-known tale of “Beauty and the Beast” is essentially used as a framing device that contains six “pretty obscure” Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The first half of each story “cuts away to the first half of the next” until “near the end, where the tales fan out in reverse order.”
Fairy tales, in their original form, Cumby noted, “are cautionary tales that work their way into our psyche and hold a mirror up. They challenge us to look deeply within our own minds, face our fears, discover our strengths, help each other, and be open to transformation.”
Because Zimmerman’s text provides “a lot of space to be creative,” Cumby said she has “opted to make music and movement a heavily featured aspect” of Stages’ production.
Two songs are written into the show – “The Song of the Three Blind Queens” (music by Laura Eason and Joy Gregory) and “The Three Snake Leaves” (music by Andre Pluess). Zimmerman wrote the lyrics to both, including original lyrics and lines from poems by James Joyce and Fyodor Tyutchev.
The two songs plus musical elements are music-directed by Gabrielle Maldonado. Movement and dance are choreographed by cast member Edgar Andrew Torrens. All nine cast members – David Bradbury, Paul Burt, Adam Bradley Clinton, Emily Curington, Mady Durbin, Jaime Hadley, Judy MinaBallard, Stan Morrow, and Torrens – portray multiple roles.
“The Secret in the Wings,” she said, “doesn’t shy away from the darkness that exists within us. Instead, it pulls us in, wraps us in its tendrils, and hypnotizes us with a sometimes silly dreamscape that is filled with all manner of characters representing the best and worst we have to offer. I am beyond thrilled to see where this experience takes us.”
“The Secret in the Wings” runs through November 4th.
Stages Theatre is located at 400 E. Commonwealth Ave. Fullerton. (714) 525-4484 www.stagesoc.org.