Imagine that Rapunzel rescued herself from the constricting tower she was confined to, that Cinderella took hold of her own destiny by standing up to her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and that Little Red Riding Hood slayed the grandmother-eating wolf herself.
The Siblings Grimm, which premiered this weekend at the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival in Volunteer Park, does exactly that. In this silly, yet purposeful, children’s play, folktale collectors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm become Jacob and Wilhelmina. Eager to assess the longevity of their stories, the siblings travel to the future, where actors are prepared to help them test the fairytales on modern (and live) audiences.
But these stories aren’t exactly as we think of them today. When Jacob and Wilhelmina realize that the tales, in their original form, may not stand the test of time, they must be open-minded about change, and recognize the potential that comes with rewriting.
Some of the changes they make are more trivial (after all, Cinderella does sound better than Aschenputtel); and some serve to make gruesome endings happier ones: No matter how good a lesson it offers, no one wants to read about Little Red Riding Hood getting eaten up by a wolf–even if she did disobey her mother.
The more significant changes, though, are the ones that make The Siblings Grimm something that children not only would enjoy, but should see. These changes make us question why the most classic of bedtime stories–stories told to us time and time again during some of the most formative years of our upbringing–reinforce stereotypes that we no longer consider relevant or acceptable. And so, when Cinderella dons a suit of armor instead of a beautiful gown, it is probably as comically silly for the children as it is refreshing and enlightening. As many laughs as these new endings elicit from the children (and, admittedly, the adults), they will certainly have equally positive long-term results.
The Siblings Grimm. The 14/48 Projects. Performances in parks around King County through July 31st. Free of charge. For full performance schedule see http://the1448projects.org/siblingsgrimm/.