Mirror, mirror on the wall, what's the most twisted story of them all? The answer is Catastrophic Theatre’s world premiere of Snow White, a theatrical adaptation of the experimental novel by postmodern novelist and poet Donald Barthelme.
In this production, Snow White is tired of being "just a housewife" to Bill, Dan, Edward, Hubert, Henry, Clem and Kevin, who, in her estimation, "only add up to the equivalent of about two real men." While they tend to their commercial real-estate properties and manufacture exotic high-end baby foods, she spends her days reading Mao Tse-Tung, drinking vodka and impatiently waiting for the prince promised to her by history.
Director Greg Dean says, “The story is about love, personal disappointment, failure and not living up to the culture you grow up in.”
And oh, what a trip it will be.
This Snow White production will line up a little more closely to the more grim original text than the Disney movies might have you believe. Some of our most beloved fairy tales and childhood movies were based on texts from centuries ago that often had vicious endings for some of the characters.
Birds pecked out Cinderella’s stepsisters' eyes, just after the sisters cut off parts of their feet in an attempt to fit into the glass slipper. Sleeping Beauty's father raped her while she was in a coma, which caused her to give birth to twins. The Little Mermaid exchanged her fin for legs, only to find that every step she took made it feel as if she were stepping on sharp knives, and (***SPOILER ALERT***) she dies at the end.
That brings us to Snow White, whom the Queen detested out of jealousy. In fact, she ordered the girl’s lungs and liver be delivered to her doorstep. How’s that for drama?
Dean tells us there will be elements of the original story, and it certainly doesn’t follow the Disney plot, but it won’t get too dark.
He adds that the staged production has been a long time coming.
Barthelme began adapting Snow White for the stage in 1974, and a reading of the script was presented in 1976. The project was abandoned after that, but a version of the play was published in 1992. In 1996, the Alley Theatre presented a private staged reading.
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Using Barthelme’s original manuscript, notes and revisions, as well as the novel itself, Dean says he worked on the project for nearly 20 years to bring this story to the stage. Unsuccessful in his attempts, he eventually boxed it up and put it to rest.
Seven years later, he received the rights to perform the show, and voilà! Persistence pays off, and now Houston has another world premiere to see. Coralee Young stars as Snow White, with Noel Bowers, Greg Cote, Greg Dean, John Dunn, Luis Galindo, Bobby Haworth, Xzavien Hollins, Courtney Lomelo, Jeff Miller, Natalie Blumrick, Joel Orr, Charlie Scott and Abe Zapata rounding out the cast.
"It’s a long-term project I thought would go unrealized, and then all of a sudden I’m doing it," says Dean. "It’s going from theory into practice."
Snow White plays April 7 through May 6 at The MATCH, 3400 Main. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit catastrophictheatre.com. Tickets are based on a “pay what you can” system; suggested donation is $35.