The next Majestic Reader's Theatre production, "Transformations," presents a new spin on the familiar fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.

They are funny, witty, disturbing and definitely not for children, says director Jane Donovan.

"It's 12 fairy tales for adults that were written in the early '70s by Anne Sexton," she said.

"Transformations," based on the book by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, was adapted for the stage by Donovan. It will have two performances Sunday in the Majestic Lab Theatre.

The play features Sexton's take on "The Golden Key," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Rumpelstiltskin," "The Little Peasant," "Rapunzel," "Iron Hans," "Sleeping Beauty," "The Wonderful Musician," "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Frog Prince," "Hansel and Gretel" and "Cinderella."

It features modern themes of women who love women, adultery, incest, people who deceive others and more, Donovan said.

Eight cast members play multiple parts and cross genders. They are: Tamara A. Alba, Robert Best, Garrett Campbell, Ariel Ginsburg, Rob Otrembiak, John Sams, Johanna Spencer and Kimberly Strong.

The actors also play narrators who introduce each fairy tale. These introductions were Sexton's way to frame her version of the stories, Donovan said.

The play begins with a storyteller introducing "The Golden Key."

"One of the lines is 'Attention my dears, let me present to you this boy. He is 16 and he wants some answers," Donovan said. "She (Sexton) is going to provide answers through all of the tales."

Sexton talks about how the fairy tale ending isn't really a happy one in all cases, Donovan said.

Live music will be included between the fairy tales by fiddler Gary Parks and his wife, Linda, on guitar.

Donovan, who taught communication and theater classes at Linn-Benton Community College for 26 years, wanted to direct the play after doing her college dissertation on Sexton’s poetry. She graduated with a PhD in speech communication with an emphasis in performance studies from the University of Illinois.

Sexton was called a confessional poet. She published nine books, but struggled with mental illness throughout her life, Donovan said.

She wrote "Transformations" in 1971, and two years later, it was made into an opera that was performed in Minneapolis. Sexton committed suicide in 1974, at the age of 45.

"Critics have said that what they love about 'Transformations' is that she retells the tales for a '70s audience, but they still work today in 2017," Donovan said.

Audiences, she said, will "love seeing those fairy tales in new ways." 

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