Stage Partners has now published THE TWELVE HUNTSMEN!
Seven years ago, Acme Theatre commissioned me to write a play based on fairy tales and food. Why fairy tales? We wanted to remodel old stories to fit with the living community. Why food? Food is complicated, often a cultural signifier – and more.
(Also, Acme Theatre is based in my hometown, which is surrounded by ag fields. My grandparents were farmworkers so I am conscious I wouldn’t exist without those fields, which I think about when I’m in California. While this idea is entirely invisible in The Twelve Huntsmen, it was a frequent topic of conversation with Emily, the AD who commissioned me.)
But, okay, fairy tales. The very nature of fairy tales is that they are told from generation to generation, so it’s ground that many, many have tread (trod?). What is my take on these?
And, I wanted to make something that would be an experience for the actors and the audience. I wanted something that would be memorable, that would be different. That would challenge them.
And then, as I read hundreds of Grimms’ stories, I found The Twelve Huntsmen. A princess gets eleven women to dress as men so she can get closer to the prince. Proto-feminist. Drag. Woodsy. It’s everything I want in a fairy tale.
Look, y’all. It’s a lightweight story, which is probably why so few have done anything with it. It reads almost like it’s the summary of a longer story that someone misplaced. This is why it’s not as well-known, I think, as Hansel and Gretel or Snow White.
Twelve women. What a random number, I thought. And the commission, it’s to transform many stories into a play… what if each woman has a story?
Okay, I love that. What makes this different from something Mary Zimmerman has written?
Well, what if every night is different? What if the stories are random? What if not every story is told every night?
I wanted to make a play that would be as challenging to produce as a musical, that would need an incredible stage manager to pull off, that needed improv and innovation, that people would see multiple times and get something different every night, and that could only ever be a play.
And thus, The Twelve Huntsmen. A play that can be done hundreds of thousands of ways.
And now Stage Partners has published it.
One thing that I like about Stage Partners is that they provide free perusals of scripts online. I don’t knock any particular business model (well, except for that one publisher that wanted all of my non-LGBTQ+ work) ’cause we all gotta eat, but I do believe that it’s in everyone’s interest to provide perusal scripts from free. The reason that Big Idea Theatre commissioned me to write an adaptation of The Jungle Book was because they couldn’t find a decent adaptation from other publishers, and it must have been obnoxious for them to spend a significant amount of their budget buying the lazy versions out there. Beyond that, consider this: for many schools, the educational theatre budget is pretty small, and if they don’t have money to spend on play scripts, they are going to save money and rely on plays the teacher has seen or plays that are low risk – i.e. well-known playwrights. If you can read the script, you’re not relying on the brand of the publisher or the brand of the playwright or the cute cover – you’re able to decide if you want to produce the play based on the script itself.
And I want people to read The Twelve Huntsmen.