Preview: The Princess and the Pea
April 28, 4:00pm, April 29, 4:00pm, 5:00pm, April 30 11:00am, 12:00pm, May 1, 11:00am, 12:00pm
Radcliffe Yard Sunken Garden
Directed by Tony J. Sterle ’11
Produced by Gus T. Hickey ’11
Though the story of “The Princess and the Pea” has been retold countless times, this may be the first time one of the princesses is played by a man in drag. This May, Sunken Garden Children’s Theater, a group of 14 undergraduates, will perform a spoof of a classic fairytale for the 17th year in Radcliffe Yard’s sunken garden.
“It’s kind of like [the TV show] ‘Spongebob Squarepants.’ It’s for kids, but little jokes are thrown in here and there for adults,” says Ryan P. Halprin ’12, who plays the Pea. Though the show is primarily aimed at children, Sunken Garden Children’s Theater entertains children and parents alike, explains co-president Gus T. Hickey ’11, also the writer and producer of this retelling. “As soon as you see it, it’s a trope. Everyone knows what happens. The only way for it to be interesting for the actors as well is for it to be funny for everyone. Otherwise, no one would want to do it. And the kids get more than we give them credit for,” says Hickey.
The generally high quality of performances in the Sunken Garden Children’s Theater is due in no small part to its flexibility. Once undergraduates make it into the cast, they typically perform in the show during their remaining years at Harvard, which is made possible by the organization’s light rehearsal schedule. “It’s been conducive to drawing a really talented cast of people,” says co-president and director Tony J. Sterle ’11. “That makes it fun for us, as directors, to play with all these people who are so quick to grasp the material and the comedy.” Both co-presidents have performed in the show since their freshman years, and note nostalgically that Sunken Garden Children’s Theater has been one of the few constants for them during their undergraduate careers.
Sunken Garden Children’s Theater is also uniquely tied to the greater Cambridge community. The atmosphere of the show, performed in the picturesque sunken garden, is particularly welcoming. Audience members typically bring blankets and sit on the ground. After the show, the children get to meet their favorite characters. “It’s one of the most effective ways in which HRDC [Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club] reaches out to the Cambridge community, because the audience never consists of just students or university affiliates,” says Hickey. “It’s one of the few things that makes me feel like I’m doing a piece of community service. It’s a great feeling to make kids laugh.”