“Princesses don’t grow on trees” is a princess story with a modern twist. The play takes children’s theatre to the next level with its discursive themes on technology and the importance of the imagination.
My daughter and I decided to put on our Sunday best and head to Solar Stage theatre’s princess production.
The play features an eight-year-old girl named Calliope (whose name means “storyteller” in Greek mythology). Calliope often feels ignored by her family because they are always on their phones and tablets. She enters an imaginary world in her fairy-tale storybook where she meets a tree named Acer, a gnome named Morty and Queen Mab, a woman strikingly similar to her mother.
Calliope is invited to remain in the imaginary world forever and must decide if she should remain with her fairytale friends or return home to her tech-obsessed family.
The princess character is progressive in this play because Calliope deviates from the norm. She doesn’t want to be a princess, but her wishes are ignored by her distracted family. Her imaginary world gives her a sense of agency to explore who she really is, highlighting the power of the imagination.
The play touches on sophisticated themes about how phones and other gadgets are taking away from much-needed family time. “The company used to be in the practice of doing something light and simple. We don’t want to do that. We want to make an immersive theatrical experience for adults and children,” said co-artistic directors, Dahlia Katz and M. John Kennedy.
Solar Stage Theatre is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It is considered a “best kept secret” because of its location on the subway line at Sheppard-Yonge station, and the comfortable theatre space itself. Katz and Kennedy were recently contracted to direct the company in January 2015, and have exciting plans for the future of Solar Stage including fewer plays in the next season with more focus on individual themes in each production.
In addition to their public and school shows, a spring and summer camp, and birthday parties, the duo has recently added adults-only performances. The plays run almost identically to the version presented to children and encourages people to sing along and interact with the on-stage performers by singing along and responding to questions. “We think it is important that everyone gets to play like a child,” said Kennedy.
Solar Stage Theatre also boasts a large number of women running the show. This season, eight of the directors were female along with eight playwrights, 50 per cent of the cast, all of the designers aside from lighting, all the stage managers, and the artistic director.
“The vast majority of [Kennedy’s] students [at Randolph Academy] are female but the industry doesn’t represent that. It was important to us that this was not the case. We have an overwhelming network of strong female talent so why not put them to work?” Katz said.
The artistic directors are also open to gender-bending performances and changing typical storylines to include female or male roles. In “Alice in Wonderland”, they changed the storyline to “Alex in Wonderland” and in “Treasure Island”, Jack Hawkins became Jane Hawkins.
“Princesses don’t grow on trees” is running from April 4 to the 22 and is worth checking out. Solar Stage Theatre also has some exciting future plans in store and as a lover of children’s theatre. I hope they can put the venue on the map for must-do’s in the city.
“The all-ages theatre just doesn’t exist yet. It is emotionally sophisticated which is what we are trying to do. We want to make new shows that are high-concept and still acceptable. We want to make good theatre,” said Kennedy.