Glen Echo Park’s ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ puppets entertain young and old
By Mark Dreisonstok
Many of us know Glen Echo Park as a place to relax with friends while enjoying great food at the picnic tables in front of the Spanish Ballroom. Glen Echo, a former amusement park with unique Art Deco architecture, is also where kids enjoy rides on the historic 1921 Dentzel Carousel
In the arcade section, the park’s resident puppet theater presents stories that include fairy tales (or, as they are called in German, “Tales for Children and Households”) by the Brothers Grimm. They did it again with “The Fantastic Tale of Rumpelstiltskin,” a Grimm tale rewritten for the Puppet Co. by Stoph Scheer and directed by Liz Dapo. The story is told following many traditional plot elements and motifs that have delighted children for centuries. However, to the rustic setting of the Grimms’ text (“beside a wood, in a distant country, flowed a beautiful stream; and on the stream stood a mill”) are added references to the source season: “Morning Mood” from Grieg’s “Peer Gynt”, flowers, a puppet butterfly and a bunny that is very reminiscent of the Easter bunny (seen next to the spinning wheel of the miller’s daughter, pressed by the impossible task of turning straw into gold).
As in Grimm’s story, “the king was very fond of money; and when he heard the boast of the miller [that the daughter could spin straw into gold] his greed increased, and he brought the maiden before him […] and said, ‘All this must be turned to gold before morning, for you love your life.’ “It is here that this puppet show deviates from the original, as the Miller’s daughter, Gretchen, opposes this disturbing proposal and threatens her life with a most modern response: ‘How is it that this is a children’s show? I want to talk to the playwright! Other bits of dialogue, such as references to “corrupt immoral actions” on the part of the king, are written with relatively high-level vocabulary, ensuring that This puppet game will appeal to adults in the audience as well as younger children.
Other additions are the bunny character telling the story with Gretchen as well as a dragon, choices that make “Rumpelstiltskin” new and fresh for those who already know the story by heart. In this reimagined way of presenting the story, a new name is also suggested for Rumpelstiltskin when, inevitably, the miller’s daughter (now the queen) has to guess his name. Humor plays a similar role in surprising the audience, as in the rabbit’s aside to the audience after an unfortunate encounter with an insect: “I got attacked by a butterfly!
Notably, these additions do not detract from the romantic brilliance of the settings: sets of impressive waterfalls and steep rocks, with the Bavarian castle of Neuschwanstein in the background, prepare the public for the arrival of the king in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage . The Romantic Age approach also includes some of the dark elements the Grimms are famous for, but no one in the audience seemed frightened by a talking skeleton – a joyful speaking skeleton, the skeleton informs us! The puppets come in different types, from those that look like hand puppets to those that look more like fancy puppets, adding variety to the visuals.
Of course, we also have to give credit to the deft performances and voice work of the puppeteers themselves: Kristina Hopkins as Gretchen, Bridgid Wallace as the King, and Kelcie Hopkins as Wendell the Rabbit. The voices were distinct and as full of personality as the nimble (at times delightfully comical) movements of the puppets.
. With the pandemic abating, the Puppet Co. Theater at Glen Echo Park is once again filled with the laughter of children, who responded with great enthusiasm to this familiar Brothers Grimm tale. In this production of “The Fantastic Tale of Rumpelstiltskin”, the Puppet Co. more than lives up to its motto “a world with endless possibilities at the end of a string”, keeping alive the children’s entertainment that has been the heart of Glen Echo Park for over a century. More information can be found about the show, which runs until May 22, by visiting: Tickets | Rumpelstiltskin’s fantastic tale | Puppet Co. (showare.com)