A preproduction still from "Cenicienta."
A preproduction still from “Cenicienta.”

In ‘Cenicienta,’ an Everyday Cinderella Spins Her Own Fairy Tale Variation

A coproduction of ZACH Theatre and Teatro Vivo, Rupert Reyes’s new take on the classic features found-object puppetry and forefronts themes of empowerment.

AUSTIN: Cinderella’s stepsisters make fun of her for a lot of reasons, but speaking Spanish is a new one. In ZACH Theatre’s Cenicienta, cultural heritage becomes a point of teasing for the beleaguered title character.

“We found that many of today’s youth, specifically Latino youth, are Cinderella-like in that they have many obstacles to overcome in order to succeed,” says playwright Rupert Reyes, who is also the artistic director of Teatro Vivo, which is coproducing the show. Cenicienta runs April 17–May 29 on ZACH’s Whisenhunt Stage.

In this adapted version for young audiences, Cenicienta lives in her stepsisters’ basement, and when she is not invited to their party upstairs, she starts telling the traditional story of Cinderella using found-object puppetry. Director Caroline Reck is also the artistic director of Glass Half Full Theatre, which specializes in works designed to inspire social change, often using puppets and everyday items to create stage illusions.

“A set of kitchen funnels become the stepmother and sisters; a cloth napkin becomes the character of Cinderella; and Cenicienta takes on the role of the fairy-godmother and the confidant of the puppet Cinderella,” explains Reck. “As she interacts with the audience as storyteller and the objects as puppeteer, Cenicienta regains the confidence to confront her stepfamily and make changes to resolve the inequity in her own life.”

The show is part of ZACH’s education initiative, in which the theatre produces bilingual plays for more than 50,000 students, 60 percent of whom are Latino/a.

“It is important for us to tell stories that represent them and their lives,” notes education director Nat Miller. “We chose Cinderella to explore the theme of empowerment—the empowerment of a young girl who finds the confidence to overcome a difficult situation.”