Theatre du Reve Looks At Political Side Of Fairy Tales In New Play

Carolyn Cook poses with Lois Reitzes.
Carolyn Cook poses with Lois Reitzes.
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

French fairy tales have made a big impact on the imagination of generations of kids in the States. Theatre du Reve is bringing even more of that 17th century romanticism to the stage with its new show “Il Etait Une Fois” (“Once Upon a Time”).

The show began with Producing Artistic Director Carolyn Cook researching fairy tales to adapt. She read the well-known works of Charles Perrault, including “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Cinderella,” but began finding works by women writers she had never heard of.

“What I discovered is that there are these other writers who were contemporaries of Perrault. They swapped stories with him, did different versions of stories,” Cook tells City Lights host Lois Reitzes. ” These were 17th century women who gathered together in salons.”

For the play, Cook adapted works by writers including Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy and Henriette-Julie de Murat.

“The other thing the women did in these stories,” Cook says, “was slip in references to famous people of the day who might, for instance, be consolidating power at Versailles—and of course, I’m referring to Louis XIV—and references to the role of women in society at the time.”

Through telling these stories, women could speak covertly about issues they believed were important, such as the right to get an education, the right to marry for love, and the right to publish.

The show is performed in French with English supertitles. Performances take place in the Backstage Theatre at 7 Stages from March 6 -25.