Liz Lorie, left, and Amanda Krystal. (photo by Hayley Bouchard, Little Cat Photography)
Writers of romance, fantasy, science fiction and horror reinvent many a classical tale with a slant towards their chosen genres. The new play by Lisa Simon, A Modern Fairy Tale, is yet another such retelling, and it has an original twist. This musical parody spins the old tales in a new light, inclusive of LGBTQ concerns and gender-neutral terms.
For starters, a romance is blooming between a female Wolf and Red Riding Hood, but they encounter several roadblocks on their love journey. Granny mistrusts Wolf – the animal-people’s rights are at stake here. Other beloved fairy tale characters populate the play – Snow White and Boots the Cat, gay princes Chuck and Cinder, Alice and Hatter – each one with their own set of problems.
Many of the performers are amateurs, attracted to the project by their love for musical theatre and their social convictions. Among them are Jewish community members Amanda Krystal and Liz Lorie, two young University of British Columbia students.
“We met at the show, didn’t know each other before,” Krystal said.
“Now, we do many things together,” added Lorie. Both provided the Independent with the inside scoop on the show.
Krystal, a microbiology student, is playing Alice. “It’s a pretty big role,” she said proudly. “I’d call it a supporting lead.”
Krystal learned about the auditions for the play through the Vancouver Public Library audition list. “I took dance and music theatre classes at school and I’m still doing tap dance. I wanted to audition for musical theatre so I left my email with the library list. I wanted to be in the Fringe, but the shows of the Fringe are all during midterms. When I learned about the auditions for this show, I thought it would be great, and not interfere with my studies.”
Lorie is in the play as part of the ensemble. She is studying English and thinking about the master’s program. She came to Vancouver from Toronto via the fine arts program at UBC Okanagan.
“Originally, I wanted to study art at Queen’s University in Ontario,” she said, “but they canceled the art program I wanted because there was not enough money for the arts. I got into the Okanagan program, and it was very good but, like in Queen’s, there was not enough funding. Interesting courses got canceled, the instructors left, so I switched to English in Vancouver.”
She noted that art programs are not getting sufficient funding anywhere in Canada. “Art is so important, specifically theatre arts. We are all isolated, but theatre brings us together. It’s therapeutic.”
She encountered the same problem – a limited budget – with this show, but despite the lack of monetary recompense, everyone is very enthusiastic and pitching in wherever they can, she said.
Krystal, besides performing, is an assistant choreographer. “My sister is into professional dancing,” she said. “She and I and Damon [Jang] choreographed three tap dances for the show.”
Lorie, with her artistic background, helped with numerous artistic tasks. “I worked on the posters and on the stage sets,” she said. “There are several sets: a ballroom, a book shop, a hat store, a cottage and a couple of others. It’s a complicated set. I also made my ice crown – I play the Snow Queen.”
Excited to be in the world première of the show, both Krystal and Lorie pointed out that the novelty of the play, while liberating, can be nerve-wracking, too.
“We improv a lot,” said Krystal. “There is no history of famous actors playing our roles. I would do something new, not in the script, and Lisa [Simon, who is also the director] would say: ‘Oh, good, keep it.’ I never know what will happen at the next rehearsal. We all come from different directions to this play, and it’s fascinating to see it coming together. But it adds some pressure, too.”
The fairy tale aspect of the show unites the participants.
“Using fairy tales was a great idea,” said Krystal. “Everyone knows them, can relate to them. Most of us first met them in the Disney versions but, in this play, seeing them from a different perspective is interesting. Some of the changes are in your face, while others are not.”
Lorie elaborated: “Fairy tales are for everyone, and we all draw from them, but they allow lots of creative leeway. In the end, it all comes to the concept of acceptance, to finding out who we are and standing for who we are, to accepting everyone despite their racial or sexual differences.”
The philosophical spotlight of this production translates well into the performers’ experience.
“It’s a light musical comedy,” Krystal said, “but it touches on many dark topics: bullying, anxiety, depression, various sexual orientations. The story focuses on the imaginary animal-people rights, but we all can recognize someone we know.”
“It’s geared towards the LGBTQ crowd, but we hope it won’t turn off the other audience,” said Lorie. “It’s a very eye-opening show for everyone, much more than just an LGBTQ event.”
The play will be on at Metro Theatre Aug. 19-30.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].