As the director of this year’s Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance children’s show, Sarah Wildes Arnett could not find an appropriate dance production.
There was plenty of children’s plays available, but Arnett is a VSU dance instructor, a choreographer and a dancer. She wanted a show that played to her strengths, one that would share her love for dance with children’s audiences throughout the region.
With nothing fitting the bill, Arnett created a show based on popular children’s fairy tales. One centering on the perpetually tardy White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland” who’s late for a Mad Hatter tea party ... as is everyone else who didn’t receive their invitations.
The show’s message to young people: Being on time and keeping promises are important. Arnett hopes children will have fun, too, watching the characters in “Eventually, Ever After.”
This is definitely Arnett’s show. She wrote it, choreographed it and directs it. Fairy tales seemed the perfect vehicle for the show she created specifically for this production.
“I took characters that people know without having to worry about introducing them,” she says. “Character development can be challenging in a dance show.”
Fairy tale characters are also in the public domain and ripe for picking for new stories. Arnett imbues her familiar fairy tale characters with modern twists. The White Rabbit, for example, has a hip-hop sensibility. The Cinderella step-sisters are more like high school “mean girls.”
Giving fairy tale characters a modern spin seems to be in vogue. Consider a whole generation’s introduction to fairy tale characters was the “Shrek” movie’s parodies of these generations-old children’s characters. But these characters have always been interpreted. The Disney fairy princess tales, for example, were adaptations of much older stories. Many fairy tales were part of an ever-changing spoken tradition before anyone ever wrote them down.
So, adding new twists, hip-hop, etc., is as much a part of the long-term fairy tale tradition as Disney setting them in animated versions of Broadway musicals.
The important thing is that children enjoy the story and learn something in the process. Following the two public performances, VSU Theatre & Dance will take “Eventually, Ever After” on the road to regional schools through February and March.
As Arnett mentions in her director’s notes, she hopes audiences “will welcome the shift from the old stories of fate and love at first sight to tales encouraging collaboration and respect for each other’s time.”
THE CAST: Emmanuel Davis, Mackinzi Von Holten, Ben McGaha, Hannah Kortrey, Esmond Pickett, Andrew Ritfeld, Megan Stewart, Tehya Malone, Melanna Kegley.
DIRECTION, PRODUCTION: Sarah Wildes Arnett, playwright, director, choreographer; Pat Metheny, music; Ruth A. Brandvik, scenic & lighting designer; Matthew Hogan, costume designer, stage manager; Jared Kay, technical director.
When: 7:30 p.m. today, Jan. 31; 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1.
Where: Sawyer Theatre, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.
Reservations, more information: Call (229) 333-5973; or visit www.valdosta.edu/comarts
To book the show for a school performance, call Jacque Wheeler, (229) 333-5820.