Sleeping Beauty gets her wake-up call
David Gonzalez wasn’t too thrilled the first time he saw the movie Sleeping Beauty.
He found the characters boring: Sleeping Beauty spent much of the story asleep, and not much was known about the prince.
“The only one with any real energy was the rejected fairy,” said Mr Gonzalez.
The 61-year-old decided to change the script. His version of the centuries-old fairytale, David Gonzalez Storyteller in Sleeping Beauty, will show at the Bermuda Festival for the Performing Arts in February.
“I found many different versions of the story,” he said.
“I found a version by Anne Rice which was very much for adults. And of course everyone gets stuck on the Disney version. In my version, I have adapted and taken things from historical chronology.
“In Etruscan times, Sleeping Beauty was called Talia and she had two daughters. One was called Aurora. In modern times there seems to have been an aberration and she is often called Aurora. I called my character Talia.
“In my version Sleeping Beauty is feisty, clever and smart. My story is about empowering young girls. I’ve given the princess and the prince backstories, and there is a surprise ending.”
It’s one of Mr Gonzalez’s many productions. The critically acclaimed with The Latin Legends Band, and MytholoJazz, both enjoyed sold-out runs as off-Broadway shows.
His Sleeping Beauty has run 400 times across the United States. Next week 6,000 schoolchildren will see it in Nashville, Tennessee.
The story is written entirely in rhyme and set to Bach’s The Goldberg Variations.
But don’t expect a big, glitzy production. Mr Gonzalez performs alone, with just a laptop and a projector.
“I just tell the story,” he said. “It is just me and the pianist. I don’t switch costumes during the piece but I do ten different characters.”
The play is best for older children because the vocabulary is meant to challenge. Mr Gonzalez, who has a doctorate in music therapy, uses many of his stories to introduce what he considers “the finest music”.
“I am not a prideful person, but it gives me great joy to continue witnessing children hearing for the first time the intelligence and humanity that is in this great music,” he said.
He describes his brand of story telling as “eclectic and theatrical” and feels it has a physicality influenced by his Latin heritage.
“I grew up in a big family,” said Mr Gonzalez, who was born in Brooklyn.
“Whoever told the most interesting story got the most attention. I was always a bit of a clown and loved making people laugh.”
And he loved listening to his Puerto Rican grandmother, Lupe Rosario, tell Juan Bobo stories.
“These are a collection of stories from Puerto Rico that follow a hapless kid who is always doing the wrong thing,” he said. “These are teaching stories. I guess I identified with Juan.”
He recalled how his uncle gave him a guitar and made him a puppet theatre. He would regularly hold shows using puppets he’d made out of old socks and other materials.
His first love was always music, but while studying music therapy at university he noticed how much storytelling helped children.
“I was working with children with emotional problems,” he said. “I would often tell spontaneous stories and sing arias to help them.
“I did my doctoral thesis on using storytelling in music therapy. Then I really got into the storytelling side of things after reading work by mythologist John Campbell.”
While in Bermuda he plans to do an anti-bullying outreach programme at City Hall on February 23.
•Watch Sleeping Beauty on February 23 at 6.30pm and on February 24 at 4pm at the Earl Cameron Theatre. Tickets, $60 general admission, $40 for seniors and $30 for students, are available at www.ptix.bm
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