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The Exponent

‘The Secret in the Wings’ transports audiences into fairy-tale universe

Ursula Saadeh
(left to right) Eric Golovan, Troian Butler, and Jake Diller perform the tale of the “Three Blind Queens.”

Edited Oct. 6

Theatre & Dance students will enchant audiences with their production of “The Secret in the Wings,” which premieres in the Black Box Theatre in Kleist Center For Art & Drama Thursday.

“The Secret in the Wings” recounts various lesser known fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. The show opens with Catie, a young girl whose parents have hired their neighbor to babysit her for the night. However, Catie is terrified of this neighbor because she knows he is an ogre.

The ogre reads Catie the fairy tales, and the cast members emerge from the stage wings to bring these stories to life. While each tale begins happily, the plot twists become evermore eerie.

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Keira McDonald, associate professor of theatre and dance and head of the BFA acting program, describes this production as an “exploration of the darker Grimm fairy tales.”

“I think it asks the question, ‘Why do we tell children fairy tales, and how do those fairy
tales infiltrate our psyche?’” McDonald said.

McDonald dared the cast members to throw themselves into their roles and utilize techniques learned in their acting and movement classes to embody each of their multiple characters fully.

“The goal is physical transformation from actor to different characters, McDonald said. “Many of the actors have multiple characters to play, so they have to be physically … and vocally different.”

With so many characters to play, students such as Catie Popelka, a sophomore acting and directing major who plays Catie, said they have found it challenging to understand each of their roles.

“I think this is one of the hardest characters I’ve played to figure out,” Popelka said. “It’s been so fun trying to figure them out, but at the same time, it’s so difficult because I feel like when I discover something about the character I have to change my performance a little bit.”

“The Secret in the Wings” stitches the fairy tales together in a non-linear structure, reminding audiences of reading from a storybook. By holding performances in the intimate Black Box Theatre, the cast can have a more personal connection with the audience.

Assistant stage manager Grace Pruchniki,a sophomore stage management and arts management and entrepreneurship student said that this space will help audiences “escape into the world.”

“I think it’s going to be a lot more up-close and personal,” Pruchnicki said. “It’s going to be good for audiences to actually be able to [be] in the world of the play rather than just seeing it up on Mainstage.”

McDonald said that seeing the production design elements of the play come together has been very exciting for her. The set is designed as a basement with a forest growing from it, showcasing the play’s real-world framing and the fantastic fairy tales that come to life within it.

“Considering what the stories are about … I think the set is going to be different than what people expect it to be,” Pruchnicki said. “And I think that’s a good thing because it’s very interactive, and there’s a lot of really cool things about the set that correlate with the story.”

Although the play draws upon dark humor throughout its nearly 90-minute run time, it greatly emphasizes childhood and how children view fairy tales in their minds.

“I would say it will put them in touch with their inner child and the imagination of a child. And there will be moments where I expect people to go, ‘Oh,’ McDonald said. “It’s a little bit creepy, a little bit touching [and] a little bit funny.”

“The Secret in the Wings” runs Oct. 5-8 in Kleist’s Black Box Theatre. Tickets are free for students and can be purchased here.

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