‘Grimm’s Juniper Tree’ shows the darker side of fairy tales

'Grimm’s Juniper Tree' opens at First Presbyterian Church this week.  Credit: Daniel Kontz
‘Grimm’s Juniper Tree’ opens at First Presbyterian Church this week.
Credit: Daniel Kontz

If “The Juniper Tree” is not one of the Grimm brothers’ better-known stories, it’s likely because the nastier parts – unlike, say, the snipped-off toes of Cinderella’s stepsister or the queen’s red-hot iron shows in “Snow White” — are central to the story, not so easily excised for a children’s cartoon. And that’s exactly what attracted James Stover.

“It was a story that I didn’t know and had never heard of,” says the playwright, “and it’s never been Disneyfied. A lot of the Grimm’s stories are gory and aggressive, but this one in particular is very much that.”

Many of the story’s elements are familiar from other, better-known Grimm’s tales: a family living in a cottage in the woods, a wicked stepmother, a magical tree. But this particular story turns less than whimsical with a decapitation, a daughter framed by her mother, a boy turned into stew and a vengeful bird with a beautiful singing voice.

Stover adapted the story for the Renegade Company, which will premiere the play beginning tomorrow at First Presbyterian Church. With a stated mission of “exploring the familiar in unfamiliar ways by distilling iconic works,” the company seemed a perfect fit for Stover’s approach. “The Renegade Company is really about taking stories that are well known and finding new avenues into telling them,” Stover says. “Fairy tales come up a lot when you’re a kid, the idea being that you’re supposed to learn lessons or morals from them. But looking at the original texts and seeing how different the Grimm’s stories are from the stories that we know, I wanted to take fairy tales and find my own way of telling them.”

Renegade’s production mixes actors with shadow puppets, and a hand puppet for the scavenging bird. In addition to the central story, Stover folds in a number of other fairy tale characters, including modern versions of Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Tom Thumb and Cinderella. Stover says that despite the fantastical elements of these stories, fairy tales continue to resonate with modern audiences because of their universal themes.

“I think the best stories are the kind of stories that anyone can watch and put themselves into,” he says. “With fairy tales, you see the struggle to be good or make positive choices when so many bad things are thrown in front of you. And that’s something that I think anyone can relate to.”

‘Grimm’s Juniper Tree’
Jan. 29-Feb. 8
First Presbyterian Church
201 S. 21st St.
$15-$20, 570-236-5436
www.therenegadecompany.org


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.