Well, think again.
There is more to this fairy princess than the happily ever after as it was first imagined by Disney, at least according to the latest original production written by Jacksonville State University assistant professor Eric Traynor.
“Cinderella’s Big Dream,” which runs July 10-14 at JSU’s Stone Center, takes the famous tale and gives it a girl-power twist.
“I started thinking about the fairytale role models for girls that always revolve around marrying the handsome prince and somehow that justifies everything,” Traynor said. “So I wondered what would happen if Cinderella said ‘no’ to the prince and decided to go to college and become a doctor.”
That’s essentially where the story takes off.
“Cinderella’s happy ending is that she gets a college scholarship rather than getting married right away,” Traynor said. “Young girls need to see that they can do their own thing and don’t need to wait to be rescued.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be Cinderella without the nasty stepmother and those wicked stepsisters, who, in Traynor’s reboot, have gone through something of a name, as well as a personality change. In “Cinderella’s Big Dream” the stepmother is named Gingivitis (Gingy), and her daughters are Rosacea (Rosy), Rubella (Ruby) and Salmonella (Sally).
“The stepsisters aren’t so much mean as they are kinda dumb,” admitted JSU senior Katie Daniels, who plays Gingivitis. “They just live in their own little fantasy world where things never seem to work out the way they planned it.”
The opportunity to take such a beloved story and turn it on its ear was a welcomed challenge, Daniels said.
“It’s been beyond fun,” she said. “You know people are expecting the Rogers and Hammerstein ‘Cinderella’ — with the gown and the glass slipper — Oh, they’ll get a glass slipper ... but there’s so much more with a type of girl-power spin.”
And that’s the message to young girls, and young boys as well.
“We wanted to show young kids that they have it within themselves to succeed at any dream they want,” Daniels said. “But they have to be willing to work at that. And on the opposite end of that are the stepsisters who don’t want to work and end up with next to nothing.”
This production, which is actually Traynor’s second foray into the Cinderella legend following 2006’s original adaptation, includes singing and dancing — all of which is designed with younger audiences, and their parents, in mind.
“I wanted something that busted up the mythology of fairy tales,” Traynor said. “I also wanted the kids to laugh — nothing that was over their heads but also without playing down to them. And of course, it’s the parents who bring the kids, so I wanted them to be able to have a good time, too.”
But audiences who come to see “Cinderella’s Big Dream” won’t sit idly by. They will be expected to participate as both a prince and third stepsister, Rosacea, are pulled from the crowd. And while that can be fun, it also adds an element of unpredictability to the show. In addition to its performance at JSU, “Cinderella’s Big Dream” is being presented in libraries across the state and Florida. During a recent library show, a young girl was pulled from the audience and was all ready to perform … until she looked out onto the sea of eyes staring back at her. That was when she decided she simply couldn’t go on.
“But without breaking stride, Katie (Daniels), pulled her aside and pulled another child from the crowd onto the stage,” Traynor said. “Thinking on their feet, learning to ad lib, it’s an amazing opportunity presented in this show that these actors wouldn’t normally find in a traditional theater setting.”
And Daniels said that’s what she appeals to her about performing in front of such audiences.
“I love it,” she said. “My main goal in life is to suck in as many people as possible into the theater as possible to show them that theater isn’t always Shakespeare. It doesn’t have to be so serious and stuff. It can be fun and this is the perfect show to prove that.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Cinderella’s Big Dream
When: 2 p.m. July 10-14
Where: JSU’s Ernest Stone Center, 11th Street and Church Avenue, Jacksonville