What if, tired of constantly playing the damsel in distress, Sleeping Beauty rescued Prince Charming or the Seven Dwarves decided they liked whistling while staying at home to catch up on “Breaking Bad” instead?
Questions such as these will be answered Friday and Saturday at the Imperial Centre during “Fairytell,” a show produced by students in the PlayShop summer camp.
“We have a theme,” director David Nields said. “We knew there were going to be fairy tale characters who write their own stories. We knew that there were going to be dwarves and wolves and princesses and prince and Jacks, and they are all tired of their stereotype. The princes are tired of rescuing people. The princesses are tired of being rescued; they want to rescue themselves. The wolves are tired of being bad guys. The Jacks are tired of everyone thinking they are stupid and the dwarves just want to take a vacation.”
The campers spend the first week of the camp working on story beats in groups, Nields said, after which everyone worked on the script.
“They get to express themselves, and because they are writing, there is ownership over the story,” he said. “It is life imitating art. They get to tell their own stories. The jokes are theirs, so they feel proud of what they have done.”
While the students were working on the script, Nields taught them the original songs he wrote for the show.
The idea for the play is partially influenced by movies such as “Frozen” and “Maleficent,” but also from recommendations from the 2013 PlayShop.
“I think wanting to tell your own story is a really powerful theme, and I think it really resonates with these guys,” he said.
It certainly resonates with students such as 12-year-old Sammie Gaskins, who said taking part in the writing process is part of the draw of the camp.
“The ability to express your imagination and creativity by developing your own storyline, I really enjoy that,” she said.
In “Fairytell,” Sammie plays Jacqueline, the leader of the Jacks.
“The Jacks are misunderstood because they are horrible school students,” she said. “They do not even know what two plus two is, but they have amazing abilities in the forest, setting traps and catching animals and such. They want to be able to show off their talents, but now one really gives them the chance to.”
PlayShop is for children ages 8 to 12, and provides many of the campers with their first opportunity to have extended time on stage.
“They get to perform in front of an audience,” Nields said. “It is safe. They can act silly or foolish and make mistakes and realize that is OK and pick themselves back up.”
Kadin Poland, 8, a third-grader at Nashville Elementary School, said this was his first real play.
“This is like my first actual play, not including church,” he said.
Kadin said he did not know the camp would be about putting together a play such as this one, but has enjoyed the camp and his role in the play, that of a wolf.
“His name is Lightning,” he said. “I am the littlest, and I get to scare my brother. He is the biggest one. He is a prince.”
Even though there is a wide variety of experience, Nields said that because of the age group, everyone is pretty much in the same boat.
“It is 12-year-olds, so they may have had experience, but no on is coming in with their (Actors) Equity card,” he said. “Sometimes, you do not realize who has experience and who does not. Sometimes the kid who has never been on stage before really steps up and shines and sometimes the kid with lots of experience turns 12 and self-conscience and stuff like that.”
“Fairytell” opens at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $6.