Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fun Cinderella Facts, by Sara Waxman

Design sketch of a Flapper costume for our production of Cinderella: A Musical Panto,
by costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey.

About the Production
This year’s Panto, Cinderella, is set in the Roaring Twenties, which is remembered for its vibrant social scene. Party-goers had their own language and Vaudeville (a broadly comic style of theatre divided into sketches and dance acts) was a popular form of entertainment. Flappers were party girls who wore fringed dresses and spoke their own language, calling “Hey-ho, Daddy-o” to each other and dancing the Charleston at every opportunity. In our production of Cinderella, Ella’s stepsisters are wannabe Flappers. To learn more about the 1920s party scene, Flappers, and the Charleston, visit YouTube.com and search for “Dancin’ the Charleston” (make sure to put your search topic in quotes). Check out “The Charleston” with music by the Green Hill Instrumental.

Flapper/1920s Lingo
“Speak easy” – an illegal bar, usually in the basement of an establishment or private residence, during the time of Prohibition (The speak easy in our Panto happens to be in the basement of the Mayor’s mansion).
“Applesauce” –in our production is used to refer to alcohol
“Dusting the Mug” – Putting on powdered make-up
“Greaser” – eye brow pencil
“Painting the kisser” – Putting on lipstick
“The Bees Knees” – refers to a person, place, or thing that is extraordinary or cool
(Source: http://local.aaca.org/bntc/slang/slang.htm)

Variations on the story of Cinderella
Cinderella has come down to us in many versions. Some tellings include mice, a pumpkin, a glass slipper, while others include Pharaohs, slaves, an eagle, and meddling gods. Although the elements of the stories differ, they all follow the same path—a downtrodden heroine magically escapes her situation (usually shoes play a role in the action) and ends up with a prince. Here are some of the very first versions of the story. (When you see the play, look for elements from these versions that resurface in Kathryn Petersen’s Cinderella.)

In Aesop’s fable “The Girl with the Rose Red Slippers,” a young Greek girl, Rhodopis, is stolen by pirates and sold into slavery. She is bought by a merchant who showers her with gifts and a pair of Rose Red Slippers. One day while she is bathing in the river, an eagle swoops down and steals one of her slippers. The eagle flies to Egypt and drops the slipper at the Pharaoh’s feet, who believes the slipper is a sign from the Gods. He sends his men to find Rhodopis and, when she is found, makes her his queen. (Source: http://www.egyptianmyths.net/mythslippers.htm)

Brothers Grimm
In the Grimm tale version, Cinderella is befriended by the birds that live in the hazel tree at the foot of her mother’s grave. On the night of the Prince’s ball Cinderella goes to the hazel tree and says: “Shiver and quiver, little tree, silver and gold throw down over me." The tree supplies her finery. At the ball, Cinderella loses a shoe in her haste to get home before her Stepmother and Stepsisters. When the Prince arrives at Cinderella’s house in search of the shoe’s owner, the stepsisters try to trick him into believing the shoe fits them by cutting off parts of their feet. But the birds sing to the Prince, alerting him to the Stepsisters’ trick. He tries the shoe on Cinderella, it fits, and he takes her for his bride.
(Source: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/grimms/21cinderella.html)

Charles Perrault
Charles Perrault’s is perhaps the most well-known version of Cinderella. A French government official, Perrault was the first to include the elements familiar to us: the Fairy Godmother, the glass slipper, a pumpkin turned a coach, and the transformation of Cinderella’s animal friends into footmen, horses, and coachmen. Perrault’s innovative contribution to literature was to transform folktales into the first fairy tales by including enchantments, magical creatures, and intricate turns of events. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella)

Recent Adaptations
In 1804, the Drury Lane and Adelphi Theatres in London produced Cinderella in the pantomime form. The traditional English pantomime, which the People’s Light production is inspired by, contains specific elements such as mistaken identity, comedy, political satire, and a Dame (a man dressed as a woman). Other panto traditions are audience participation, a messy fight (past years at People’s Light have included fights in jello and ice cream), singing, dancing, and candy!

Contemporary versions of the tale include Disney’s animated movie and TV versions of the book and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein (starring Lesley Ann Warren in 1965 and Brandy in 1997). Cinderella has also found her way into pop culture via songs like Fairy Tale by Sara Bareilles, Cinderella Stay Awhile by Michael Jackson, Cinderfells by Snoop Dogg, Cinderella by Britney Spears, and I Can Love You Like That by John Michael Montgomery and All-4-One.