Dreaming big: Carlton students bring classic tale of hope and perseverance to the stage

Sierra Parker (left) as Cinderella and Zedrick Uson (right) as the Prince headline the Mad Hatter Theatre Company performance of “Cinderella” scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 18 at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

It’s not a true fairy tale story unless there’s an obstacle to overcome.

For Cinderella (at least in the well-known Disney version) it’s her antagonistic stepfamily and a gown to wear to a ball. For the students of Carlton High School’s Mad Hatter Theater Company, it’s something a little more practical: getting their props and sets out the door and onto the stage.

The student production of Cinderella kicks off a two-week run today that includes stops at seven Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division schools and a one-night only performance at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. However, like Cinderella, the student group found a few unexpected obstacles on the way to their destination.

“They had all kinds of interesting things that they built or designed and then we really had to problem solve. They built this huge set (and) once we found out the size of our transport truck we built for the truck, but then we realized it won’t fit through the (classroom) door,” Mad Hatter Theatre Company artistic director David Zulkoskey chuckled during an interview on Wednesday. “There were all kinds of interesting challenges.”

Fortunately that challenge proved easy to tackle. The next challenge, actually staging a play based on a beloved story, might be more difficult.

Many of the actors and actresses performing in this year’s show grew up watching the beloved Disney movie. They know audiences bring high expectations to any troupe performing the much-loved classic. Like the set design issue, it’s a challenge they’re embracing.

“I feel like it has similarities, but we do our down little things in it,” said cast member Sierra Parker, who portrays Cinderella. “We’re always trying to make things unique to us and what we like.”

Parker was a big fan of the 1950 film version while growing up and it inspired her to try for the part when it came up this year. For other actors, like Zedrick Uson who portrays the Prince, inspiration came from previous Mad Hatter Theatre Company students who performed the same play four years ago.

“It kind of inspired me and I said, “I want to join drama some day,’” Uson recalled. “Just like any other Disney movie or show, (Cinderella) makes your dreams come true. It makes you more positive.”

Although the Disney version is the best-known version of the Cinderella story it’s not the original. Similar fairy tales about a kind, young women who suffers cruel and unjust treatment only to receive help from a supernatural guardian can be found in first century Egypt, Medieval China, and Enlightenment era France. A study commissioned by the Folklore Society of Britain in 1897 found more than 345 variants of the story. Today, scholars say there could be as many as 1,500.

While each version alters the tale in some way, the underlying lesson hasn’t changed. Zulkoskey said it still speaks to audiences today, and while the cast and crew do put a few of the own spins on the tale, they’re hoping to keep that core message intact.

“(Audiences) want to have a sense of the happily ever after story, and as we certainly see, life is not like that,” he explained. “I think (the story) enables us to connect with that childhood sense of innocence and dreams and I believe that’s why Cinderella is the classic tale. I think it is probably the most ‘classic’ story.”

The Mad Hatter Theatre Company performance of Cinderella is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. Tickets are available on the box office or online.