Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass
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A new version of a classic fairy tale set in Depression-era Kentucky stars Bradley Whitford (on video) as the narrator and features a rollicking bluegrass score performed by The Get Down Boys (Mark Cassidy–banjo, Scott Gates–mandolin, Israel Parker–dobro and Evan Winsor–bass). Debbie Devine directs the world premiere of Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass by Bryan Davidson, opening October 29 at 24th Street Theatre.
In coal miner’s slang, “dead ground” means “no coal here.” In the Appalachian town of Butcher Holler, there’s lots of dead ground. Men are out of work and children are going hungry. As relayed by storyteller and radio program host “the Duke” (Whitford), Hansel and Gretel’s pa may have no alternative but to abandon them to the woods. Maybe somebody will find them and take them in. Maybe they’ll have a chance.
“Conditions were so bad in Kentucky in the 1930s, that some literally believed their kids would be better off on their own,” Devine says. “The truth is that children have been abandoned by parents throughout the history of the world. How do they survive? Children are incredibly resilient. They get through it by believing in themselves and counting on each other.”
Although the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale we all know was made famous by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, the original story probably originated in the medieval period of the Great Famine (1315–1321), when desperate people were forced to abandon young children to fend for themselves. As artistic director of 24th Street Theatre, which specializes in provocative theater with emotional depth that appeals to kids as well as adults (Walking the Tightrope, Man Covets Bird), Devine and executive director Jay McAdams were inspired to commission Davidson’s script by the current wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America – many of whom live in the theater’s surrounding North University Park neighborhood.
“Theater changed my life at a young age, not as a career path to be taken, but as an empathetic, joyous way to understand the world.” Whitford says. “In a world where arts programs are being cut, more than ever kids and their families need access to cathartic, quality theater that doesn’t condescend, but challenges and thrills them. That is the mission of 24th Street Theatre and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
Debbie Devine is a multiple award-winning theater director and the co-founder/artistic director of 24th Street Theatre. Named “one of Los Angeles’ most fascinating people” in the LA Weekly People 2012 issue, Debbie has been a respected leader in the field of arts education for over three decades. She has held the position of Drama Department Chair of Colburn School for over 30 years and is also a theatrical director with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Debbie’s work has earned her three Drama-Logue Awards, two LA Weekly Awards (including “Best Direction” for Walking the Tightrope), a Robby Award, LA Parent magazine’s Best Westside Children’s Theatre Award and the Women In Theatre Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Los Angeles Theater. She earned the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s Professional Designation in Arts Education, is the recipient of the USC Rossier School of Education’s Innovation and Leadership Award, and won Los Angeles County Music Center’s 2001 Bravo Special Mention for her work in arts education. She is also the proud recipient of the 2011 Inspiring Women Award, presented by the L.A. Sparks and Farmers Insurance.
Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass opens for press on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m., continuing through Dec. 11 on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. (dark Nov. 26 and Nov. 27). Four preview performances take place on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 23 at 3 p.m.; and Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $24 for adults ($15 for previews); $10 for kids under 16; $15 for students, seniors and teachers; and $2.40 for residents of the theater’s surrounding North University Park neighborhood. 24th Street Theatre is located at 1117 West 24th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007 (at the intersection of 24th and Hoover). Secure parking is available for $5 in the lot on the southwest corner of 24th and Hoover. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call (213) 745-6516 or go to www.24thstreet.org. Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass is best enjoyed by adults and kids 8 and up.