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Making Her Own Magic

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Speaking of dreams, one of children’s literature’s dreamiest belles returns to the Orange County stage this weekend.

But this Cinderella is a far cry from the one in Disney’s 1950 animated film. While that heroine depended on the whims of a passing fairy godmother to turn her dreams into reality, the title character in Greg Atkins’ new “Cinderella” is very much a can-do gal.

Directed by Joe Lauderdale and performed by members of the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theater, Atkins’ “Cinderella” opens Friday and continues through June 15 at the Moulton Theater. The playwright, who has created works for Irvine Theatrefaire and South Coast Repertory, says it’s a fresh, funny but ultimately romantic look at a timeless tale.

“The Cinderella story has been around since ancient Egypt,” notes Atkins, who has set his version in 17th century Venice. “It’s a wonderful story, and there are literally hundreds of versions of it.

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“But as a writer, I’ve always had a problem with Cinderella because she’s usually just handed the solution to her problem, instead of her working for it.”

Atkins, who has a young daughter, says it was important for him to create a heroine who was more independent-minded.

“She does have a fairy godmother, but our Cinderella has to put out a lot of effort before the godmother will interact with her,” he explains. “She really is self-sufficient. If it wasn’t for the other people who are so nasty to her, she would have been fine on her own.”

Nasty they are. As in most versions, Cinderella suffers mightily at the hands of an evil stepmother and a pair of vicious, doltish stepsisters--or in this case, step-persons.

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“The stepsisters are played by young men . . . wigs, corsets, the whole bit,” Atkins confides, laughing. “They’re pretty over-the-top.”

Atkins says he set his story during Carnivale in old Venice because it afforded an elegance that tied in nicely with many elements of the classic fairy tale.

“With this setting, you get the gorgeous music of Italian composers, the masks, the gondolas, the elegance . . . .”

Not to mention the stroke-of-midnight thing.

“Carnivale ends at midnight and when the clock strikes 12, the revelry stops and Lent begins. It was just a perfect fit.”

BE THERE

“Cinderella” is being presented by the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theater at the Moulton Theater, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. 7:30 p.m. Friday and June 12 and 13; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and June 14; 2 p.m. June 15. $9-$12. (714) 497-2787.


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