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Graphic © Bryan Burns 2005


# of characters:  

Playing time:   






Fairy Tale farce

14 (8 w / 6 m)*

Approx. 1 hour

Minimal (a rocking chair, an old book, a pumpkin, a strike banner)


As minimally or elaborately stereotypical of fairy tale char- acters as desired


* easily expanded or reduced, and gender of roles adaptable

Il était une fois... / Once upon a Time...

Written for (and tailored to) 2005 Comédiens Carolingiens troupe, then revised for 2013 troupe. At student actors' request, lesser known Perrault characters Peau d'âne/Donkey Skin, Fanchon (from "Toads and Diamonds"), Barbe bleue/Bluebeard and Petit Poucet/Tom Thumb  in original were dropped in favor of Raiponce/Rapunzel, Pinocchio, Blanche-Neige/Snow White and Hansel & Gretel. PDF of 2005 version available upon request.

English Synopsis

Charles Perrault’s beloved Mother Goose Tales have suffered much creative manipulation and downright abuse ever since their publication in 1697. The current adaptation is no exception and even includes the adoption of a stray Grimm character or two, not to mention a rogue Italian puppet…

After 300+ years of uneasy cohabitation, the characters are as sick of each other as they are of their narrator and surrogate parent, Mother Goose. A fight breaks out during the umpteenth retelling of Cinderella, provoking Mother Goose’s fatal heart attack. At first exhilarated by their freedom, the characters dispose of the body and attempt to decide their own fate for once. Centuries of dependence on maternal guidance, however, prompt them first to follow Little Red Riding Hood through the forest to Grandmother’s house to consult that venerable lady. Along the way, the quarrelsome monsters of vanity each try to pre-empt the others in telling their tales, until they finally rid themselves of the most conceited among them, Cinderella. When Little Red Riding Hood then cautions them that her Grandmother isn’t getting any younger, they jumble the remaining tales together in an effort to get through them faster. In so doing, they realize (and give loud voice to) every individual injustice they feel they have suffered as fairy tale characters. True to their French roots, when their discontentment with their lot boils over, they take to the streets in a general strike, marching to the French workers’ anthem known the world over, L’Internationale. Such organized civil disobedience comes at a price, and all but Little Red Riding Hood are eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. Not overly upset by the carnage, Red tries yet again to jump start her tale and get the overstuffed wolf to Grandmother’s house. The strenuous race so soon after such a hearty meal brings it all back up – literally – including, to everyone’s surprise, a furious Mother Goose, who had actually faked her heart attack in order to get a much-needed vacation from her obnoxious brood. The characters’ relief at her unexpected return is short-lived as she takes back control with punitive vengeance. They decide to trick her once more into the belly of  the wolf, who obligingly devours Mother Goose (again!), except for a postcard from Red’s Grandmother he found in Mother Goose’s apron pocket. The play ends with the characters contemplating Grandmother’s invitation to join her in Hollywood, her new home, where the future will, perhaps, be brighter...

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