Alvin Temple told Michael Russ to create a storybook, one with pages big enough to span the stage.
Each time one of those pages is turned, a new scene will pop up - fairy tale scenes where beautiful princesses are rescued by gallant princes.
That seems to be one of the main storylines in fairytales, doesn’t it? Well, Nicki and Mandi don’t like it. In fact, they hate it.
This is the 21st century, after all, and women aren’t always damsels in distress. They’ve proven themselves to be strong and successful, so why can’t Mother Goose follow suit?
“Nicki and Mandi decide to do something about it,” Temple said. “So, they kidnap Mother Goose and make her write new fairytales with strong women characters.”
Nicki and Mandi are Temple’s characters. He’s both playwright and director of New Venture Theatre’s production The Abduction of Mother Goose, which opens Thursday, Sept. 15, in Independence Park Theatre.
The story is aimed at teens and younger children, who also dominate the cast. But make no mistake, the play also will appeal to adults.
“My hope is that this story will inspire adults to go back and read these fairytales,” Temple said. “And I hope it will inspire them to read these stories to their children.”
As for kids, Temple hopes they will read the stories on their own. Some kids have already read these tales; others only know the Disney versions.
“And the Disney versions aren’t the real stories,” Temple said.
Of course, Temple made a few of his own discoveries while writing this play. He’s a big fan of fairytales; his mother used to read them to him at bedtime when he was a child.
“It’s one of my best memories, and it was a great bonding process between me and mom,” he said. “Sometimes my mom would change things up just to make it more fun. She’d call Cinderella Rindercella, you know, things like that.”
Sadly, though, not all parents read to their children these days. There’s so much going on, so time is limited.
“I was talking to some friends about this, and they said their parents never read to them,” Temple said. “They said they used to play video games before going to bed, which I found to be sad.”
So, Temple decided to write a play that would teach a thing or two about fairytales. Maybe this is a good spot to insert a good, old-fashioned “once upon a time.”
Here goes - once upon a time, Alvin Temple set out to write a play about fairytales. Little did he know, he would learn a few things along the way.
Like how the Brothers Grimm stories really are just that - grim. Maybe gruesome would be a better word.
Of course, this subject was tackled in the Broadway musical Into the Woods.
Cinderella’s stepsisters shed blood along the way. The wolf ends up living happily ever after in Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s no happiness at all at the end of The Little Mermaid.
Now, don’t misunderstand. None of the characters in The Abduction of Mother Goose comes to a tragic end; not even Mother Goose.
But Mother Goose does refer Nicki and Mandi to the pre-Disney versions to teach them something about the stories’ heroines.
Maybe the main characters didn’t always meet a happy end in the original stories, but not all of the heroines were damsels in distress.
“They do learn some things,” Kellie Alexandria said. “And we learned some things about fairytales, too.”
She plays the role of Nicki. She’ll be joined on stage by Miranda Rozas as Nicki’s sidekick Mandi.
Now, Nicki is bossy, which has been fun for Alexandria, because her personality is opposite of her characters.
“She’s totally opposite of me,” Rozas said. “As you can see, I’m not interested in fashion. but Mandi’s a diva. She loves pink, and she loves fashion, and it’s been fun to play someone who’s opposite of me.”
Both Alexandria and Rozas are fans of fairytales. Alexandria’s favorite is Cinderella; Rozas’ is The Little Mermaid.
Both find themselves living within the pages of fairytale land on the Independence Park Theatre Stage as the pages of Michael Russ’ book turn to create one scene after the other.
Russ is the set designer for this production.
“I told him I wanted a pop-up book,” Temple said.
The pop-up part was easy - the actors would create the action normally found on pop-up pages. But the bigger-than-life book was a different matter.
The book must stretch the length of the stage, and the pages actually must turn. Russ has created such an effect, painting each scene as a separate mural.
“It will be like this,” Temple said, picking up a smaller version of the set.
It’s been fashioned into book form, each of its pages a small, watercolor painting. He turns the pages.
“This is what they’ll look like on stage,” Temple said.
And they will. Russ is already working on the final scene, one filled with stairways and hidden doors. This is where Mother Goose will find herself captive. But that’s OK.
Lenear Tennart is up to the challenge.
She plays Mother Goose in this production, her second with New Venture. She also played Mable in the company’s spring production of the musical Crowns.
“I loved it so much that I decided to try out for this play,” Tennart said. “I have a bigger role this time, but I love a challenge. And this play took me way back. I love fairytales, and this is a wonderful script.”
So, does Mother Goose have a favorite fairytale?
“I love Little Red Riding Hood,” Tennart said, laughing. “No matter how big the wolf is, Red Riding Hood prevails. That’s a good lesson for life.”
As for Raegan Rozas, her favorite fairytale is Jack and the Beanstalk. True, her choice of fairytales is pretty intense, which may explain why she’s so good at playing her character in this play.
A character whose name can’t be mentioned here.
“It’s a surprise,” Temple said. “When she steps on stage, everyone will be surprised.”
Don’t worry, it’s a good surprise, one that perfectly gels with the fairytales in this story. But one thing that can be mentioned is that Raegan and Miranda Rozas are sisters.
Both have taken acting classes with BREC and were taught by the play’s costumer, Dorrian Wilson.
“And Miss Dorrian took some of us aside at one of the classes and told us about the auditions,” Raegan Rozas said. “So, I decided to audition.”
Miranda Rozas was inspired by her sister.
“I wasn’t going to audition, but I went with my sister,” she said. “And I really didn’t think anything of it at the time.”
She ended up being chosen to portray one of the main characters in the end - Mandi, who lives among the pages of Russ’ book.
Playing out her own story of “Once upon a time.”
CAST: Alexandra Talbert, Fairy Troupe ? Apple Spice; Angelia M. Forter, Grammy; Brian Jordan, Charming Prince; Chayla Trepagnier, Orange Blossom; Donnie Carradine II, Banana Peel; Dorrian Wilson, Adult Nicki; Evan Doomes, The Frog Prince; Herman Flintroy III, Fairy Truope ? Strawberry Dip; Imari Eaglin ? Fairy Troupe ? Kiwi Slice; Jason Roberts, Wolf; Keating Jones, Rapunzel; Kellie Alexandria, Nicki; Le’Brian Patrick, Cinderella’s Prince; Lenear Tennart, Mother Goose; Lindsey Eakin, Bo Peep; Logan Hall, Cinderella; Madeline Marva, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty); Max Rutherford, Fairy Troupe ? Grape Squeeze; Michael Russ, Prince Charlie; Miranda Rozas, Mandi; Q’Shailyn George, Fairy Godmother; Raegan Rozas, surprise character; Rebecca Lousteau, Adult Mandi; Tori Turner, Esmeralda
ARTISTIC STAFF: Alvin A. Temple, director and playwright; Greg Williams Jr., producer, stage manager; Ashley Self, assistant director; Michael Russ, set designer; Michael Burton, lighting designer; Dorrian Wilson, costumer.