Zipes agreed. “One of the things the tales provide is a sense of, there are alternatives. There are ways to beat evil.” What the tales promise us is this: “When we’re being oppressed, if we maintain a certain integrity, we can overcome.
“I think that when times are rough, we are really desperate for hope, for stories that can enable us to transcend [and] resolve these conflicts.”
“I think our current economic challenge everybody has been facing has caused us to look for positive ways to experience different aspects of life, and I think the arts are a part of that,” said Tom Reynolds, director of artistic programming at George Mason University, who selected “Cinderella” out of the Moscow Ballet’s repertoire over options like “Romeo and Juliet.” “I have consciously tried to lighten up a little bit on the things that we’ve been presenting.”
Audiences are pleased with those choices, he said. “I do sense that they are looking for those things that will end up making them feel good at the end of the day.”
Zipes likes to stay away from the idea of a “resurgence” — remember, fairy tales are with us all of the time — but he said “the intensification, I think, occurs in troubled times.”
“Because of the very bitter conflicts that we’re all faced with today,” he said, we crave reassurance in stories that tell us “we can cope with these difficult times and ultimately, with some integrity and perseverance and a certain amount of ethics, good will triumph.”
On Wednesday, the unofficial dress code for girls attending Imagination Stage’s “Rapunzel” seemed to be “pouffy dress and sneakers.” One girl skipped inside the theater with a glittery braid made of yarn that swung to the small of her back; another shuffled in clutching a Belle Barbie doll by the neck. Boys piled in, too, some with school field trips, others fans of Disney’s “Tangled” who were ready for Round 2.
As expected, Rapunzel managed to escape from her tower with the help of a courageous — and, in this version, goofy — prince and make amends with the witch-turned-mother who locked her away in the first place.
When all the couples were wed and the curses lifted, one actor turned to the audience, arms outstretched. “Don’t you love a happy ending?”
The loud, unanimous reply: “Yes!”
Once upon a stage (and screen)
Red Riding Hood: A New Fable
Through April 7 at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney, www.olneytheatre.org, 301-924-3400. $10
Through May 20 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, www.imaginationstage.org, 301-280-1660. $10-$22
April 12-June 3 at Puppet Co. Playhouse, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, www.thepuppetco.org, 301-634-5380. $10
April 14-15 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW, www.kennedy-center.org, 202-467-4600. $18.
April 14 at George Mason University, Braddock Road and Route 123, Fairfax, cfa.gmu.edu, 888-945-2468. Tickets $27, $46, $54. Limited student tickets available
Opened March 30
Snow White and the Huntsman
Opens June 1