While it’s based on the pan-cultural fairy tale of Cinderella, Nashville Stagecraft’s adaptation of the ancient tale is a far cry from the classic 1950 Disney animated film version. Cindy & Ella, premiering Friday at the 4th Story Theater, follows three women coping with life in an isolated Oklahoma farming community at the height of the Dust Bowl.
The violent and traumatic death of young Cindy Wicket’s mother has left her on the brink of madness, and when her manipulative Aunt Eudora arrives claiming ownership of the home, a violent battle of wills ensues. Meanwhile, Eudora’s daughter Ella must wrestle with her own desperation as she watches her hopes for a future vanishing beneath acres of dead corn and her mother’s all-consuming greed. When a handsome young man from Chicago arrives offering to buy the land, the stage is set for a final conflict over control of the homestead and the lives of all who live there.
Sara Gaddis (who co-authored the script with JP Schuffman) directs the original work and elaborates on the choice of Cinderella: “We wanted to tell a story that was immediately recognizable to everyone, but still left room to explore the darker themes and character relationships in an updated environment.”
The Cinderella story is more than 3000 years old and there are versions of it in almost every culture, from the Germany to Vietnam. “We began looking at the power dynamics between characters and the messages those ancient stories were sending, especially about the value of women in society, we realized there was real potential to continue the discourse about gendered expectations, and the effect those have on women,” Gaddis says; in the place of a pumpkin coach or Prince Charming Cindy & Ella deals with adult themes of sex, love and expectations. The show is recommended for audiences ages 13+ due to adult situations and violence.
Gaddis and Schuffman have written together since 2010 and have produced original work independently in New York City and Nashville, including the critically-acclaimed The Mad King Lear earlier this year. Lucy Turner (Bad Seed, Miracles on Honey Bee Hill, The Caretakers), Lanie Shannon (Royal Gambit, The Glass Menagerie), Harley Walker (The Drowsy Chaperone) and newcomer Adam Bridges star.
Performances are at 7 p.m. August 8, 9, 15 and 16 in the 4th Story Theater at the West End United Methodist Church (2200 West End Ave.). Tickets (general admission $12, students with ID $8) are available online by clicking here.
*Artwork as well as photos by Lori Turner courtesy Nashville Stagecraft.