Pandemic Projects

Miscellaneous Productions presents

PLAGUE

An International and Indigenous Fairy Tale and Folklore Project

An authentic reading of the original fairy tales compiled in 1812 by the celebrated “Brothers Grimm” were grim indeed. Though they later sanitized their own stories, and subsequent retellings were further prettified for nursery storytelling and Disneyfied for child-friendly movies, the original Germanic and other European folkloric tales they compiled as Grimms’ Fairy Tales, including “Snow White”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Little Red Riding Hood”, were essentially horror stories, rife with violence, bloodshed, and brutality. For example, the original “Frog Prince” was a story of the rape, defiance, and revenge of the Princess.

MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ next community-engaged and youth-centred theatre work will explore issues that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring the plague through fairy tales, myths, and animal wonder tales from Indigenous and international cultures.

In preparation, our director, Elaine Carol and other staff have been working with Jack Zipes, a leading expert in folklore and fairy tales. Once the creation process begins, participating youth, in collaboration with professional artists, will subvert/decolonize the original Grimm story of plague, “The Pied Piper”, from an intersectional, anti-racist, anti-oppression, queer feminist perspective. Indigenous and international folklore and fairy tales will be featured in this exploration of dis/ease, child abuse and, the powerful, tragic consequences of broken promises in a time of plague, anxiety and uncertainty.

Zipes, a professor emeritus of German, cultural studies, critical theory, and comparative literature is the translator of two major editions of the tales of the Brothers Grimm. His work focusses on the evolution of fairy tales and their social and political role in the civilizing process. With arguments based on the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, and more recently theories of cultural evolution, he maintains that fairy tales “serve a meaningful social function, not just for compensation but for revelation: the worlds projected by the best of our fairy tales reveal the gaps between truth and falsehood in our immediate society”.

The creation of Plague will be informed by a series of “Distance Hats” costume and visual art creation workshops held via Zoom with youth from throughout BC, and a virtual performance-lecture by Zipes filmed in Minneapolis by MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ professionals. Central to the process will be the idea of working with youth to explore the fairy tales, folktales, and myths from their own Indigenous and international cultures, learning to meaningfully integrate those tales with stories from their own lives.

In addition to his deep knowledge of fairy tales and folklore, Zipes will bring to the project his own experiences as a co-creator of Neighbourhood Bridges, an internationally-recognized, community-engaged theatre program that uses storytelling and theatre to help children develop their critical and storytelling skills.

Once a vaccine is developed and distributed, MISCELLANEOUS Productions will work in a long-term, community-engaged collaboration with culturally and socially representative youth to create a new, professionally-produced hip hop music theatre work to be presented at The Dance Centre in 2022.

As with other MISCELLANEOUS Productions works, a documentary film will be created that will incorporate elements of the final stage production, workshops, and the virtual performance-lecture by Zipes.

RESURRECTING DEAD FAIRY TALES

A Jack Zipes Lecture

With the goal of, as he describes it “unburying and reinvigorating dead fairy tales and their creators”, internationally recognized expert on folklore and fairy tales Jack Zipes will discuss his recent work exploring important tales from the first half of the twentieth century, and his founding of his own publishing house, Little Mole and Honey Bear to bring back in print works from the 1940s that have been neglected in favour of flashier commercial products, breathing life into older fairy tales that deliver message important to our times.

For example, in Yussuf the Ostrich well-known political caricaturist Emery Kelen tells the tale of a young ostrich who helps defeat the Nazis in northern Africa during World War II. In Keedle, the Great, first published in 1940, Deirdre and William Conselman Jr. sought to give Americans hope that the world can overcome fascist dictatorships. To the authors, the title character Keedle represented more than Hitler, but all dictators then and now.

In discussing these works Zipes hopes to introduce children and youth to what they might be missing by not being taught about certain periods of history, such as the early rise of fascism at the beginning of the twentieth century.

As Zipes states on his publishing firm’s website: “History is doomed to repeat itself. We must preserve the things that make us human, and stand up to forces that would tear our society apart”.

The lecture, filmed at the sumptuous Victorian Upson Room at the Walter Library at the University of Minneapolis in late October of 2020, directed by Elaine Carol in collaboration with a professional crew, will be launched in the New Year as a Facebook Watch event, with an opportunity for Q&A.

DISTANCE HATS

A Celebratory Workshop for Youth in a Time of Isolation and Quarantine

Another series of fun-filled free workshops conducted as part of the creation of MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ 2021 theatre work Plague is Distance Hats. The project begins with the distribution of 200 art kits to representative youth groups around British Columbia. Participating youth will engage via Zoom with professional costume designers, a woodworking master and stilt walker, a theatre and film director, and a visual artist specializing in using recycled objects. The artistic team will collaborate with youth participants to create a collection of imaginative big hats, each relating to the youths’ interpretations of fairy tales and folklore from their own cultures, and from their imaginations.

With an emphasis on process rather than product, the workshops are based on a project coming out of schools in South China and will be focussed on serving the particular needs of artistic youth during this complex time of plague and uncertainty.

After the hats are created, and through a series of theatrical improvisations, youth participants will be encouraged to create fantastical characters from their respective cultural backgrounds and/or their imaginations with which to explore movement and sound within the confines of the “Zoom Box”.

NO SUPERMAN

A Motion-Graphics Dance-Based Video

“No Superman” the central hip hop musical number from MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ original 2019 work AWAY with HOME will be given a new look in a dance-based video created through the medium of motion graphics, a technique that combines sound, motion, text, and graphic design.

Streetdance choreographer Natasha Gorrie and director Elaine Carol will work with a cast of representative professional dancers from across Canada’s hip hop scene to explore young people’s struggles with mental health, connection, disconnection, and fluctuating feelings of powerlessness, confinement, and hope for young people struggling in a time of plague and uncertainty.

The video will be developed in collaboration with the professional media group Magnafire Media. Production has begun with filming in November of 2020, and the new three-minute dance video will be ready for release in the New Year.