STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
“Little Red” will stroll around the Montgomery Theater from Oct. 16 through 25. She’s based on the Little Red Riding Hood character most people know, but playwright Andrew Kane made her story his own.
Like all good fairy tales, it starts… Once upon a time, Little Red sets out through the Great Forest to go to her grandmother’s house. Along the way, she meets a fox, a wolf, a prince, a maiden, a mysterious stranger, a pair of squabbling siblings, two tea-loving old ladies, and a little pig (or three … of course). The story is relatable for all ages – it’s a comedy about how getting lost helps you find your way home.
“Little Red” is one of two children’s productions that “Montgomery Theater, Too” has offered this year. They produce two each year – a musical in the spring and a play in the fall. Montgomery Theater, a non-profit dedicated to “bringing new life to old tales and giving age and wisdom to new ones,” also offers five Main Stage productions, educational programs for adults and children, experimental theater, and limited-run special events.
Associate Artistic Director Jessica Bedford said in a telephone interview that “Little Red” came to her through the theater’s Adaptation Competition, which is held every few years and aims to find new local writers’ work to produce. The actors in the play are local students, from fourth grade through high school, who auditioned for their parts. The goal is to replicate a professional theater experience, from auditions, to rehearsals, to production, she said.
The fairy tale mash-up, as she called it, made her laugh out loud.
“I was so struck by the quickness and the wit and the humor,” she said.
Bedford, an adjunct professor of theater at DeSales University, had her students do two readings of Kane’s work. He took notes and worked on the script to get it ready for this fall’s premiere. Bedford’s excited and pleased with how it turned out.
“I think it’s going to have mom and dad laughing as much as the kids,” she said. “It’s what I love. I love children’s theater pieces that are smart.”
“I love the Fox and Wolf,” she said. “They’re like Laurel and Hardy. They’re the villains, but fantastic clowns.”
Kane was a joy to work with as well.
“He has such a generosity,” she said. “He’s collaborative. He has an open spirit and wry sense of humor and real love of children’s theater.”
Kane, of Collegeville, wanted to write a fractured fairy tale, in the spirit of the Brothers Grimm, but without the “dark edge” that he loved as a kid.
“It’s goofy and has a lot of heart,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to take the old school fairy tale heart and charm and morality, but tell the story in a contemporary, quirky, and fun way.”
The Brothers Grimm could be scary and spooky, and “this isn’t, but there are consequences and things to be learned.”
He also wanted to make audiences laugh.
“I’ve seen theater for kids that panders and doesn’t fully appreciate the wit and understanding that a child may have or it’s too hokey for the parents,” he said. “It works best with a blend of a broad range of comedy – sight gags, word play, slapstick.”
And comedy, said Kane, who works as an administrator at People’s Light in Malvern and writes plays for adults as well, helps to create the in-person connection that theater provides and that he loves.
“Comedy is the way to bring all different kinds of audiences together in the same room,” he said, “which is what theater’s all about.”
He hopes that “Little Red” will make people will laugh, and then some.
“I hope maybe they value each other differently. It’s a story about getting lost and finding your way back to what you didn’t realize was there all along,” he said. “It’s about valuing what you have in the moment.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Little Red,” recommended for ages 4 and older
When: Oct. 16-25 (check website for varying times/days)
Where: Montgomery Theater, 124 Main St., Souderton, PA 18964
Tickets and info.: Call 215-723-9984 or visit www.montgomerytheater.org