Goblins, Rag Dolls, and Forbidden Fruit :: Blue Spruce Presents ’Faerie Tales’
" ’Goblin Market’ was suggested to me right after we finished out first production as another very small musical that had a compelling story," Jesse Strachman, the producing artistic director for Blue Spruce Theatre told EDGE in a recent interview. "When I looked at that piece, I loved it. It was so short I thought it would be best to try and pair it with another work so it would be a full evening’s show."
Blue Spruce Theater was founded in 2006 with the purpose of "bring[ing] high-quality, intimate musical theatre to audiences beyond Boston," as text at their website explains. "The mission is to produce works that connect us to each other as people and provide us with a better understanding of who we are, where we came from, and where we are headed."
"Since ’Goblin Market’ was set in a sort of fairy land, I thought that pairing it with another piece that was fairy tale themed seemed appropriate," Strachman continued. " ’Goblin Market’ is not, strictly speaking, a fairy tale. It was written by someone in the 1850s, Christina Rossetti, and it was originally a children’s poem. But it shared many of the same qualities as classic fairy tales, particularly fables, as the story has a sort of moral to it."
But it’s not so simple and straightforward as that, is things turn out. Strachman went on to observe, "There is some ambiguity about whether ’Goblin Market’ was originally intended to be a children’s story, or as possibly a piece of Victorian-era veiled erotica."
Strachman pointed to various lines from the original poem, including a suggestive passage in which the main character, who purchases some produce from the goblins of the title, "laughed in heart to feel the drip / Of juice that syruped all her face, / And lodged in dimples of her chin, / And streaked her neck which quaked like curd." When place in the context of "veiled erotica," those descriptions do take on an unmistakable air of the evocative. In any case, Strachman, who directs the show, made a point of adding, "We are presenting it as a fairy tale or fable."
Strachman explains that Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon adapted the poem to the stage. "The original production of [’Goblin Market’] was in the 1980s," he noted. The companion piece, "The Rag Doll," is entirely new, and receives its world premiere in this run. "The Rag Doll" is the work of Silvia Graziano, who wrote the book, and David Reiffel, who wrote the music and lyrics.
There’s an interesting coincidence here, insofar as Reiffel attended the same high school as Pen, though three years behind Pen’s grade. But the work at hand isn’t exactly a continuation of the original, nor is it an homage. "It was written to be a sequel, and also as a stand-alone piece," Strachman said. "But I don’t want to give too much away about the nature of the piece as a sequel; that’s left deliberately ambiguous, although there will be hints as to the relationship between the pieces."
The two musical one-act plays star the same pair of performers, two actresses "who are both immensely talented," Strachman told EDGE. "Theresa Winner Blume has been seen recently in a number of other musicals. She’s performed with Lyric Stage, and also with Moonbox Productions. She has an opera background. The other actor is Abigail Clarke -- she is relatively new on the scene. She’s pretty newly out of Brandeis University and has done a number of shows there. I believe she has also performed with Reagle."
Strachman explained that though this is a small production, its ambitions are anything but. "It’s a two-person cast, and a four-person orchestra [with music direction from Dan Rodriguez], and we definitely are performing in a very small space [the black box at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown], but it is just about two hours worth of solid performance, and we will certainly be using an enormous amount of movement-based story telling."
By that, as it turns out, Strachman means the show boasts a good deal of choreography, by Kira Cowen. "An enormous amount of choreography," Strachman said, "and it’s taken a very long time to master that aspect of the piece." The cast members have proven themselves assets here: "Both of them seem to have a background in dance - they certainly showed their stuff at auditions, and we’ve been happy to work with them in this manner," Strachman noted.
"Goblin Market" stays true to the provenance of the original poem, but "The Rag Doll" moves the action to modern times. That’s not the only key difference between the two one-act plays.