fairy tales, fear, young audiences, TYA


As a theatre for young audiences (TYA) practitioner and artist, I have noticed the prevalence of edited fairy tales on TYA stages. Artists tend to present versions of traditional tales that do not explore the dark places found in the original forms, the very same parts of humanity that young people often yearn to understand. Within TYA, fairy tales have become a safe option because many are well-known titles that generate audiences and income. Theatre practitioners and producers frequently present selections from the canon of fairy tales without exploring its many layers of meaning; failing to recognize the message that is being communicated to the audience. This thesis will explore how and why theatres continue to present these tales to contemporary young audiences. How do TYA companies create productions of fairy tales that capture the attention of a contemporary audience and still remain true to the traditional psychological framework? The staying power of fairy tales points toward a common human connection. Parents pass the stories down to their children, generation after generation. There must be a reason for this and I would like to examine it. Research on the long-term effects fairy tales have on young people focuses on the psychological values and ramifications of exposure to these classic stories. This thesis will explore the use of fairy tale structures in theatre for young audiences and where this author feels we can produce fairy tale shows in a manner that considers the developing psyche. I will consider the underlying significations in fairy tales and how theatre artists can provide young people a means to explore and understand these meanings, while avoiding metanarratives that reinforce submission and oppression. Guided by an understanding of research in psychology, productions already performed, and the definition of a contemporary young audience, I will look beyond the simple tale and find ways to create fairy tales onstage responsibly. I will analyze the works of Bruno Bettelheim, Jack Zipes, and Maria Tatar, compare and contrast their differing views on the place of fairy tales in a young person's psychological life, and define what a child gains from hearing these stories. Finally, I will interview three directors from around the world about their approach to directing fairy tales, then synthesize the information to create a view of how some companies currently present fully-actualized fairy tales. The prevailing presentation of fairy tales follows an edited and lighthearted way of looking at these classic tales. However, a growing movement exists to re-imagine our view of fairy tales. The work of three of these innovative directors--Kevin Ehrhart, Dougie Irvine and Andy Packer--inspired this thesis with their fearless approaches to teaching young people through the lessons created in fairy tales.


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Graduation Date



Chicurel, Steven


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

May 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)