Fairy Folk Myth

Why TYA Should Join the Dark Side (of Fairy Tales): my extended interview with Gypsy Thornton part 1

I had the pleasure to interview Gypsy Thornton of Once Upon a Blog recently. Segments of our interview appeared in the article “Why TYA Should Join the Dark Side (of Fairy Tales)”, but she had such great insight that I gained permission to publish our extended interview. 

CINDY MARIE JENKINS: Sometimes people are surprised to hear how dark the origins of their favorite fairy tales are. Why do you think that is?

GYPSY THORNTON: I think this comes from generations where people have been exposed to Disney and ‘softened’ retellings more than the traditional fairy tale collections kids grew up with before. Before video, you couldn’t just ‘pop on a show’ to entertain the kids so story collections were very popular. Collections of fairy tales before the 80’s often included one or two lesser known ones and although the language was always kid-friendly, there were usually hints in the text and illustrations that both initial conditions and, eventually, punishments for the evil-doers were quite severe.

Enter Disney marketing the new ‘princess culture’ of the 80’s that began with their hit animated musical

Marissa Meyer’s sci-fi adaptation of The Little Mermaid follows the original much more closely than Disney. -CMJ

The Little Mermaid, and the era of PC tale telling of the 90’s. Absolutes tended to disappear. Evil wasn’t so much ‘evil’ as misunderstood, and everything and everyone could be rehabilitated. Ironically one of the things I’ve found helps kids feel safe is when things are more extreme: black and white, good and evil, rules are rules and punishment is given when they’re broken. When villains are vanquished, despite that there is often death involved, kids are greatly comforted by the fact that death is final, meaning that evil- or evil person – cannot return. The hero and heroine are now safe to truly live happily ever after, and the kids feel they personally are too.

One of the effects of ‘soft’ fairy tales is that you end up with watered down versions of the tale, which makes them easier to dismiss. They’re less relevant to life as they no longer have as much resonance and kids don’t learn many valuable things from them anymore. Fairy tales weren’t a variety of stories with elements of wonder anymore – they became distillations of dreams, magic and the incredibly fantastical. Magic had flourishes and sparkles, a thrilling soundtrack and cheering at the end of every story. Unlike the stories of real people with an element of the fantastic that gave them choices, all the new protagonists were already special and magical things happened because of it.

The big take-away is that fairy tales are for ‘little kids’ and people who can’t deal with reality. I don’t think it’s a coincidence we’ve ended up with generations that are taking longer to leave home, to get married and start their own families. Being able to deal with ambiguity, having tools to battle challenges and fears and encouraging creative thinking – these are all things embedded in the ‘less sparkly’ fairy tales. When you read and hear these ‘less fantastical’ tales as children, with their black and white boundaries, their clear-cut rules and rewards, it’s a safe forum to learn these things from and to expand your understanding into as your knowledge of the world grows. When you read them for the first time as an adult, the full weight of all the implications can crash in at once, making them seem a little frightening. Despite being obviously fantasy, they can feel ‘too real’. It’s an interesting irony.

One of the things almost guaranteed to make fairy tale students and scholars groan is an article that pronounces ‘you’ll never believe the dark origins of your favorite fairy tales!’. Every second headline seems to be using this ‘clickbait’ these days, but talk to anyone who found an ‘old fairy tale’ in a difficult childhood and you’ll hear they were, and remain useful tools – for hope. [CMJ note: see my article about the musical Into the Woods]

Photo credit unknown.

The quote that ‘fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us that dragons exist, but that we can defeat them’ (GK Chesterton) is well worn but remains so relevant. In the ‘sensational’ discovery of ‘horrors’ in older versions of fairy tales, people can’t help but see they can’t be dismissed as easily. They speak on many harsh things, and, as such, can be related to the harshness of real life. A surface glance will indeed make people shy away if they’re unfamiliar, but fairy tales have staying power, not (just) because they dwell in the dark places (and recognize life is sometimes awful), but particularly because they show people the possibility of coming out the other side.

Hope is a powerful thing and fairy tales have that in spades. Nice fairy tales are ‘nice’ and are great for dreaming. There is nothing wrong with that – at all. But fairy tales that encourage you to get up on your remaining limbs and keep going? They’re the ones that tell you life is worth living, no matter how tough it gets. Unlike dreams that have a tendency to vanish in disillusionment, these are the stuff of hope. Unfortunately, in our contemporary era, the trade off of (relative) stability is that we have a tendency to try and shield our children from disillusionment, instead of seeing it as inevitable and preparing them to cope.

Read the series “Talking TYA on The Clyde Fitch Report, including “Why TYA Should Join the Dark Side (of Fairy Tales)”, (part 2).

Read more from Gypsy Thornton on Once Upon a Blog

It Wasn’t Diversity That Killed Comic Sales, It Was These Archaic Publishing Methods

I want to read more comic books. I want to be a regular reader of a series and follow a character through a larger arc, then be intrigued by another character and go down the rabbit hole of their story. But the way that comics are released just doesn’t work for me anymore.

I’ve tried. I’ll wait months for a title to be available in trade if it means I can read it when I want to read it—on my schedule and terms. Asher Elbein’s new piece in The Atlantic explains why many of my favorites are canceled or in peril by the time I buy their trades, and that just drives me more and more to the indie presses, or even away from comics at all. It is no coincidence that the more so-called “diverse,” i.e. not default white male, titles are the ones that interest me (Alex Brown says a lot of how I feel whenever “diversity” is blamed for poor sales.). If you haven’t kept up with the billionth Spiderman or which Robin is actually Robin since before you were born, it seems like there’s no place for you.

Read more at The Mary Sue. 

A Modern “Poe Man” at Orlando Fringe

I love fringe festivals. They’re such a great way to take chances on new art and artists, and I devote time every year to coverage of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I didn’t get to attend as much as I wanted to at Orlando Fringe this year, but here are my thoughts on what I did see.  

You choose a one-man Poe show at a Fringe Festival, your odds are 50/50 at best.

PoeMan_2017_450

Devennie has a series of images for his show, and this is my second favorite.

I’m glad I caught Poe Man by Joe Devennie: I admittedly entered the show a bit snobbish and left with a firm appreciation of Poe’s lasting effect on the American psyche.

 

I think of Poe, I think early America: rough, young yet still slightly tinged with a British sound. That’s why I’m glad Devennie begins with “The Telltale Heart”. His no-frills approach to the language eases you into his way of telling this story, his Poe — closer to the cool High School English teacher than a muggy idea of Poe drowning in its own importance and expectations.

Devennie draws his “Telltale Heart” narrator straight from the headlines of “He was such a nice, normal boy. I had no idea he could do this sort of thing” [19th century spoilers: he murders a housemate because the old man’s eye puts him off.] We are at least five minutes into his telling before Devennie even raises his voice or shows any signs beyond normalcy. You could be asking him where the nearest bathroom is before he slips into the first sign that something is not quite right.

It’s a great way to present this story, and one that feels all too real in the American of today.

Hop-Frog

I don’t recall ever reading this one. A dwarf, forced into slavery as a court jester (and often the subject of ridicule as well), takes a well planned, maniacal revenge on the King who causes his and his only friend pain.

Devennie uses his well-honed storytelling chops to great effect. I found myself wishing we were actually around a campfire, hearing his words illuminated by chance with fire. Also, love this story! Any show that makes me want to crack open that thick hardcover of The Collected Works of Poe I’ve had for two years has earned its ticket price.

Poe’s description of the slow toll that abuse and bullying takes on a person’s psyche also feels too relevant and real in today’s world.

The Raven

Devennie started The Raven strong, with an old Southern “let me tell you a story on my front porch but I’ve had a few too many” vibe. It was well done and Devennie certainly more than did it justice. The character, however, didn’t reveal anything new about the story. I almost wish he had never left his “porch chair,” and told the whole tale from there. Even though it didn’t add up, ending a Poe adventure on “Nevermore” is never a poor choice.

His last show is an hour after I am publishing this, but he is an Orlando Fringe regular, so keep him on your radar for next year. 

 

PoeManSuperman

This is my favorite image for his show. 

 

Cover Reveal: Vanity in Dust by Cheryl Low

Tea, pastries infected with (fairy?) dust.

An Evil Queen, dangerous fairies (a favorite twist of mine), a Prince who starts to see through the spell…

These are the reasons why I want to read Vanity in Dust by Cheryl Low.

I am in the process of reading excerpts and will have an interview with Ms. Low soon, who just seems incredibly charming.

In the meantime, here is the cover!

Forever young, endlessly indulged. What could go wrong?

By Cheryl Low
Fantasy
Release Date: August 8, 2017 (pre-order)

Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0998702216
Novel, approx. 305 pages
Also available as an ebook

Find it Online:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
Goodreads
iTunes/Apple iBooks
Independent Bookstores
Kobo

Other books in the series: Detox in Letters (forthcoming in 2018)

DESCRIPTION

In the Realm there are whispers. Whispers that the city used to be a different place. That before the Queen ruled there was a sky beyond the clouds and a world beyond their streets.

Vaun Dray Fen never knew that world. Born a prince without a purpose in a Realm ruled by lavish indulgence, unrelenting greed, and vicious hierarchy, he never knew a time before the Queen’s dust drugged the city. From the tea to the pastries, everything is poisoned to distract and dull the senses.  And yet, after more than a century, his own magic is beginning to wake. The beautiful veneer of the Realm is cracking. Those who would defy the Queen turn their eyes to Vaun, and the dust saturating the Realm.

From the carnivorous pixies in the shadows to the wolves in the streets, Vaun thought he knew all the dangers of his city. But when whispers of treason bring down the fury of the Queen, he’ll have to race to save the lives and souls of those he loves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheryl Low might be an Evil Queen, sipping tea and peeping on everyone from high up in her posh tower—a job she got only after being fired from her gig as Wicked Witch for eating half the gingerbread house.

…Or she might be a relatively mundane human with a love for all things sugary and soap opera slaps.

Find out by following her on social media @cherylwlow or check her webpage, cheryllow.com. The answer might surprise you! But it probably won’t.

Why TYA Should Join the Dark Side (of Fairy Tales)

Let’s delve into a pretty common denominator in the world of theater for young audiences (TYA): fairy tales. There is no end to internet lists “revealing” or “discovering” the dark origins of fairy tales, yet it is so surprising that, once upon a time, we actually told children scary stories? Shocking!

Many of the original versions of fairy tales were told to help children and adults confront the very real dangers of their times. Hansel and Gretel is an excellent example and very likely the most well known: it’s famine and hunger that motivate the mother or stepmother (depending on the version) to convince her husband to abandon his children in the woods. Most stage productions hide that part of the tale. It is fear of the darkness inherent in the stories that can cause playwrights to move too far in the other, more saccharine direction, leading to meaningless takes on fairy tales that now feel like the norm. When we remove fear from a fairy tale — or any story — we remove its connection to our lives, and that dumbing down affects theater audiences for a lifetime. Without true connections to our own feelings, fears and joys, why bother attending?

Read more at The Clyde Fitch Report

Read Part 1: Why do Theaters Dumb Down TYA (Theater for Young Audiences)?

Caleb Foote and Angela Giarratana in “Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass” (Photo: Cooper Bates)

I Made Better Life Choices Because of “Into the Woods”

My father introduced me to Into the Woods around nine years-old. Some of my most vibrant memories include singing Agony with him in our living room. It was my first experience understanding that stories are told differently depending on the teller, and opened my imagination to interpretations of fairy tales outside of Disney.

I’ve been thinking of how Into the Woods gave me a healthy and challenging outlook on life: song by song, story by story, character by character. Some of these outlooks are revelations the characters have and some are what the audience understands through their journey. Some were lessons I put immediately into practice and some had to wait until I grew older than my nine years.

 

Prologue: Into the Woods

 

itwtonys

Phylicia Rashad as The Witch (replacement on Broadway for Bernadette Peters, Chip Zien as The Baker and Joanna Gleason as The Baker’s Wife. Photo Credit: Martha Swope/NYPL

Photo Credit: Martha Swope/NYPL

Photo Credit: Martha Swope/NYPL

 

We are all one. All of our stories, our lives, involve one another. No person lives solo in this world, and everyone’s choices affect the lives around us.

 

Go after what you want, even if the road is scary and untread.

Something I didn’t realize was true until it happened to me: Pregnancy can really cause you to crave “greens, greens and nothing but greens!” At least until you crave fruit the next day.

Don’t steal from your neighbor. Seriously.

Only female cows milk (This was definitely a 9 year old me’s revelation. Seems common sense once you know, but I was quite the city mouse.)

Hello, Little Girl

Kids: It’s better to ask your Mother why the woods are scary than just take her word for it. Otherwise, one charming wolf is all it takes for you to step off the path.

Moms: Just talk to your kids about wolves. If all we know is that it’s scary, curiosity will win.

 

I Guess This is Goodbye

Take your moment to say goodbye.  

It’s also interesting to me that this is the only song in the show that doesn’t rhyme, which I learned after attending the Into the Woods Reunion. (Yes, of course I got all fangirl. Bernadette Peters live!)

 

Maybe They’re Magic

You can talk yourself into justifying anything to get what you want, even magic beans. I didn’t always heed this advice, even if I privately acknowledged it to myself.

Little white lies will bite you in the ass one day.

 

I Know Things Now

wolfandredeidinghood

Robert Westenberg and Danielle Ferland in original production, 1987.

 

Oof. Where to start? This song is the most influential on my younger self, particularly with dating. Namely:

Bad/weird experiences are just that, experiences. They do not define you. They do change you. Learn from them and move on with your life. Don’t beat yourself up over a mistake, just don’t make the same one again.

Oh, and if some kindly person saves your life, do offer a gift of gratitude. Especially if you stole their bread earlier.

 

A Very Nice Prince

Everyone will always want what they can’t have.

It’s okay to feel iffy about something or someone you thought you wanted.

If the reality of your dream isn’t what you thought it would be, BAIL. That is what I wanted Cinderella to do, anyway. But I have strong feelings about Cinderella.

 

First Midnight

I‘d probably just have to copy and paste the whole song to explain this one. There’s one line that made an impression on me and pays off later:

“The slotted spoon can’t hold much soup.”

 

Giants in the Sky

You have to understand that I wanted to BE Jack when I was young. Not just play him onstage, but be him.

In many ways, I valued traveling the world because of this verse (bold mine):

The roof, the house, and your Mother at the door.

The roof, the house and the world you never thought to explore.

And you think of all of the things you’ve seen,

And you wish that you could live in between,

And you’re back again,

Only different than before,

After the sky.

Yes, go and explore the world. Travel to new places, meet new people. But make sure you also know where you came from and what it offers as well.

 

Agony

There’s always more to a story than what we think we know. Prince Charmings were so often just set dressing until Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin (with a nod to Prince Phillip in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty for at least having some spunk), and here we discover that sibling competition and bravado has something to do with their choice of a bride. Oh yes, and the need for what they can’t get.The fact that the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince are the same actor deepened the lessons learned in I Know Things Now. *

 

It Takes Two

I thought I understood this song at nine, fourteen, twenty years-old, but only since my husband came into my life do I get to live it.

 

Second Midnight

Wanting a ball is not wanting a Prince. I once learned a friend of mine had been married before we met and I found it hard to believe. Her sister explained that She wanted a wedding, not a marriage. That concept had never really occurred to me, and it’s possible that is because of this song.

 

Stay With Me

Moms are people too. They may overreact sometimes but it comes from a deep love and fear of being alone – though it may seem borderline obsessive to the daughter.

I’m not sure how this may be affecting my own early motherhood, but more time will tell.

 

On the Steps of the Palace

If you’re unsure how somebody feels about you or how you feel about somebody, leave a clue. The interesting ones will follow through. My husband did!

 

Act One Finale

Enjoy your success. That was only Act 1.  

 

Did “Into the Woods” affect you in some way? Share below.

*Obviously this is not how they did it in the movie. That was the first change I heard from live to the movie, and I think it helped me reserve judgment on the other changes. It reminded me that in a different medium, different ways to approach the storytelling are needed. Besides, I like Chris Pine just fine and am not sure Johnny Depp could have nailed a film Prince Charming (the teenage me could have accepted Depp Charming, no question).

 

Shadows of Sherwood – YA review

Buy this book for a teenager near you. Seriously, go get it. Order it and ship it directly to their house.*

Robyn Hoodlum is a cool pre-teen who spends her nights getting into trouble for rebellious adventures. One of those nights while she’s away, her parents are killed or kidnapped, and she’s left with a few clues.

Read more at Dwarf+Giant

.

 

1 2 6
(not) Mixed (up)

A Biracial Swirl in a Black and White World

Longreads

The best longform stories on the web

5amWritersClub

Sponsored by Caffeine.

Way-Word Writer

Heather Cashman

Orlando Convention Printing

Your One-Stop Orlando Printing Solution

TheWhizpops.com

Information about "The Whizpops!"

Whatever, I Eat What I Want

Surviving Cultural and Culinary Post-Modernity

Laura Grace Weldon

Free Range Learning, Creative Living, Gentle Encouragement, Big Questions, Poetry, Occasional Drollery

Cindy Marie Jenkins

Storyteller / Outreach Nerd

%d bloggers like this: