Children are abandoned in the woods.
A young girl is kidnapped and threatened with execution, while another is forced to labour from dawn to dusk for a cruel taskmaster.
Tree House Youth Theatre is tapping into some not so politically correct fairy tales next week when Some Grimm Tales is staged from Thursday to Saturday, May 5.
Hansel and Gretel, Rumplestiltskin and Ashputtel (German for Cinderella) will be among the seven Brothers Grimm stories that will be brought to life at the Scott Block in downtown Red Deer.
Artistic director Matt Gould said the timeless tales that have fascinated and horrified children for centuries are presenting a great challenge for his cast of 14 young actors.
They have to believe, in the case of Hansel and Gretel, for example, that parents purposely left these children to fend for themselves in the forest.
“I tell them, ‘If you don’t believe it, I won’t believe it,’ ” said Gould, who needed his actors to understand the “visceral” aspects of the stories.
To bring Hansel and Gretel’s predicament home to the 12-to-17-year-olds, the director asked them to imagine how they might feel if their parents abandoned them in Nordegg.
“This isn’t deep psychological stuff — it isn’t Shakespeare — but I had to give them a reality they could connect to somehow,” said Gould, with a chuckle.
He believes it takes great courage for teenagers to invest in the characters and plots of these “richly dark heritage tales.”
He encouraged them to stop thinking about whether they will appear ridiculous to others and let their creativity fly.
One young thespian later confessed that she loved playing an evil person, because it was a role she could really sink her teeth into.
“My job is to challenge them to step up to the plate,” he said. And Gould believes the young actors are taking some interesting risks in dramatizing the five-to-15-minute fairy tales, which also include The Musicians of Bremen, Clever Hans, The Hare and the Hedgehog and The Magic Table, the Donkey and the Cudgel.
Whether or not the stories are familiar, the director believes family audiences will enjoy watching the energetic plays, which were initially scripted for the Young Vic Theatre in London.
“There’s a great emotional range,” he added, from broad comedy to pathos.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. shows (there’s also a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, May 5) are $17.50 ($14.50 students/seniors) from Ticket Central (403-347-0800). Recommended for ages eight and up.