Vortex production re-imagines 'Sleeping Beauty'

In 2005, adventurous theater artists Bonnie Cullum and Content Love Knowles staged a re-imagined version of the classical fairy tale 'Sleeping Beauty' as a fantastical musical.

Now - with Cullum's Vortex Theater having netted its first-ever National Endowment for the Arts grant - the pair offer a new, revised and considerably larger version of their show with new songs, a revolving spiral tower, spectacular costumes and a fresh, contemporary look at the magic of the mythic kingdom of Avalia.

American-Statesman: What inspired you to take on a re-make of fairy tale as traditional as 'Sleeping Beauty?'

Bonnie Cullum: Traditional fairy tales transcend cultural boundaries and time and at their root are far darker than Disney-fied versions. The magical story of 'Sleeping Beauty' offers a wealth of theatrical possibilities for song as the basis for an original musical. I particularly was drawn to the theme of the Thirteenth Faery who is not invited to the party where the fairies present their gifts to the baby. Content Love Knowles and I have written a vital retelling of an old tale and many elements of our interpretation are nontraditional.

How did you bring in a revisionist viewpoint to the story?

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Using the Grimm Brothers' version as a point of departure, I re-visioned the classic tale enhancing the role of the 13 fairies and focusing on the alliance of the magical creatures and the human kingdom. In the end, Princess Briar Rose - the Sleeping Beauty - takes control of her own destiny and stops the happily-ever-after predictions, seizing her own power so that she can live her life in her own way.

You staged an earlier version of the show in 2005; how is this version different?

While the skeleton of the 2005 piece is still intact, the design and cast are entirely new. The text has been extensively refined and five entirely new songs have been added. With new choreography and staging, the new band will play entirely new arrangements. Anyone who saw the 2005 production will find this remarkably different, especially the end of Act I.

How do you make such a show appealing to all ages?

The show is written for adults. There are a few scary things, so we advise parental discretion. But there is no nudity, bad language or violence, so most people should find this acceptable for younger audiences.

Costumes, visuals, sets and music always play a huge role in your productions.

The Vortex Theatre is re-configured into a large proscenium setup with a huge revolving tower and spiral forest. The lighting is accented by LED lights. The lavish 37 costumes create a larger-than-life modern style for the magical kingdom of Avalia and an evocative fairy world.

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699

'Sleeping Beauty'

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, beginning Friday and through May 2

Where: Vortex, 2307 Manor Road

Cost: $10-$30 Thursdays and Sundays 2-for-1 admission with donation of two nonperishable food items.

Information: 478-5282, www.vortexrep.org

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