Cinderellas: a multicultural play

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Last week I volunteered to drive students in my son’s class to a local theatre to see Cinderellas. This wasn’t the regular run-of-the mill Cinderella play though, so instead of just dropping the kids off, I purchased a ticket for the show. Put on by ABC Let’s Act, this production presented the story of Cinderella as told in four different traditions: Walt Disney’s, the Chinese, the First Nations and the Korean versions. Did you know that there are over 300 versions of the story of Cinderella throughout the world?

The young cast did a wonderful job of telling the story of four Cinderellas from four different cultures and proved that Cinderella can indeed have brown eyes and black hair! It truly was a multicultural experience with aspects of traditional Chinese theatre, a Korean fan dance, Tae Kwon Do martial arts and the singing of a sacred First Nations song that has been passed down from generation to generation. Director Mandy Tulloch says she wanted to ensure that each version of Cinderella was shown in a manner that was true to its respective culture:

Advisors were consulted to make sure the play was as culturally responsible as possible. In the segment from China, we utilize the traditional method in Chinese theatre where the audience is asked for permission for the performance to take place. We also have the property men as well. For the First Nations piece, we were granted permission by the local elders for the performance to take place. They also blessed the show and worked with us on the music and mask making. In the Korean segment, which was written specifically for this show, you will see an authentic Korean Fan Dance performed by kids as well as award winning Tae Kwon Do artists.

Multicultural versions of Cinderella abound in children’s and young adult books too. To get a sense of what’s out there, check out our blog posts Globe-trotting Cinderella and Bound by Donna Jo Napoli and Books at Bedtime: Fairy Tales (2); and read this review of Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella, which forms part of our current focus on the Philippines…