Bella Chirkis ’27
This spring will be Trinity’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” In an interview with Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Michelle Hendrick, I was able to learn about the background works that go into creating such elaborate works of art, and the outside research that compels a production. The spark of curiosity of how a story like “Cinderella” lives all throughout the world led to more research on the story itself.
“Cinderella” has been viewed by many generations, from the early ’90s Whitney Houston’s “Cinderella” to Billy Porter playing the fairy godmother in 2021.
“This story is always revisited and there is a reason why we do. I want to find out why,” Hendrick said, elaborating on how “Cinderella” can easily be seen as just a Disney story when it is so much more than that. The fairytale is written in children’s books in many different formats and cultures, such as “The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story,” “The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story” and “Yeh- Shen: A Cinderella Story from China.” Truth be told, this story is known everywhere, and when creating a show, Hendrick is “trying to figure out why this story lives so deeply in the human collective.”
In the beginning stages of the design, Hendrick started by brainstorming a lot of questions she has both for herself and for the things she wants to portray in the story, as there is a lot of information in a simple question. Some questions are short and straight to the point like “what is magic?” or “how do objects channel power?” While other questions convey a greater theme to the story, like “is imagination and possibility a way to reclaim power?” This introduces the strong social justice component to the script, which brings up aspects of classism, people’s relationship to monarchy and what happens when one body has all of the power and influence.
These questions help brainstorming for the visual aspect of the production. Hendrick will be looking at the space she is given, determining how to change the locations quickly between the kingdoms of the royalty and cottages, which do not interact much in other productions. The carriage is the vehicle that will show the characters transporting between the landscapes, but still, Hendrick wonders why these two realms are secluded from one another in other productions, as it creates an “abrupt feeling and jumping from place to place.” Even though she is still in the process of building, she wants to emphasize location and how there tends to be empty space in between the places, working on how characters will get from each place emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Auditions for the production will take place towards the end of the fall semester, and students should keep their eyes open for promotions on social media. The show is looking for 9-15 principal roles and a core ensemble as well as an additional ensemble. Anyone with questions about auditions or the show itself, email Michelle Hendrick at Michelle.