The Puppet Co Playhouse’s telling of “Sleeping Beauty” is, according to Allan Stevens, by and large traditional.
Except for the frog.
“We think the storyline has been enhanced by the inclusion of some elements of ‘The Frog Prince,’” said Stevens, the puppet theater’s founding director.
While interpretations of “Sleeping Beauty” often emphasize its dark side, such as the princess pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, Stevens believes it’s really a “romantic comedy, imbued with sweetness and good humor.”
The script the Puppet Co. is using, by Duane Bowers, dates back to 1979.
“Some friends went over the script,” Stevens said. “We’ve broadened the perspective and added some details.”
Central to the plot are the 13 fairies, particularly No. 13.
“She isn’t a particularly nice person,” Stevens said. “When one of the courtiers says to her, ‘Don’t croak at me,” she turns him into a frog till the end of time, later softened to 116 years.”
The princess, named Briar Rose, has a relatively small part, appearing only in the last few scenes.
But Paige O’Malley, the puppeteer who portrays her, is determined to make the character memorable, despite limited stage time.
“I try to play up her moxie and, most importantly, her curiosity, which is really her driving force,” she said. She is innocent but precocious. As the prince aptly quips, ‘I better go save her before she saves herself!”
O’Malley is making her debut at the Puppet Co., but has more than a dozen years of experience as a puppeteer -- starting as artistic director of Puppetonia in New York City.
“It’s an honor to be a part of The Puppet Co.’s unique brand of storytelling and rich history of puppetry,” she said.
O’Malley is also playing the Queen, Fairy No. 12, and Beautiful Maiden.
Christopher Piper, Puppet Co.’s co-founding director and artistic director, takes the male parts, except for the Storyteller/Frog.
That dual role goes to Josh Rosenblum, who is performing it for the fourth time.
“This was my first show at The Puppet Co., other than ‘The Nutcracker,” he said. “It’s only been performed five or six times here, so I really feel like The Storyteller/Frog is my character. It’s also the only hand and rod puppet I get to do with the company and since that’s my favorite style, I love that aspect as well.”
Rosenblum is also drawn to the “very funny” story and writing.
The writing also helps him to distinguish between the Storyteller and the Frog.
“The key to finding the difference is the spell that changes the storyteller,” Rosenblum said.
“His dialogue is written ever so slightly more formal and more uptight, whereas the Frog has a casual, no-cares kind of syntax. The Storyteller is a rod puppet, which also helps keep the puppet stiffer in performance. On the other hand, the Frog is a hand and rod puppet, which means he’s mostly a very fancy sock puppet. He’s flexible, and floppy, and fun.”
Rosenblum considers “Sleeping Beauty” the funniest show in the Puppet Co. repertory. “There’s something so tongue-in-cheek about the romance as well. The original versions of this story are almost anything but romantic. So, making sure there’s that element without being too “gross” for the kids is well balanced.”
Developing the muscle memory to keep the puppets buoyant, with subtle movements, while rolling on stools behind the set is a “welcome” challenge,” said O’Malley. The most enjoyable part of puppeteering is what she calls “communing with the crowd – making families smile and forget their cares for a magical interlude.”
“Sleeping Beauty” continues through June 24, at Puppet Co., located at 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo. For information, visit: www.thepuppetco.org.
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