Sleeping Beauty becomes an allegory about consent, Peter Pan is recast as a “creepy” Peeping Tom, and Ariel must weigh whether the “vagina-a-bob” that comes attached to her new legs is worth losing her mermaid tail for after all.
Disney princesses become unwittingly woke feminists in Feminist Fairy Tales, an all-female sketch show cowritten by Laura Lane and Ellen Haun. It makes its Chicago premiere on January 17 and 18 with two prime slots at this year’s Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.
Directed by Chet Siegel and starring Lane, Haun, and Amber Reauchean Williams, Feminist Fairy Tales first premiered as Femme Fairy Tales at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York in March of 2018, where it ran through January 2019. The show also had a short run at UCB in Los Angeles in November of 2018.
Lane and Haun met while enrolled in the same UCB sketch writing class. Lane brought in a few fairy tale sketches, which Haun thought were “very funny,” funny enough to anchor an entire sketch show. She asked Lane if she could help build it out, and—in true feminist fairy tale fashion—a beautiful creative partnership was born.
“I’m not sure I would have gone through doing the show without Ellen,” Lane says. “It’s not fun writing in a void, it’s much more fun collaborating.”
In the midst of the show’s initial UCB run, Lane approached Haun about turning their successful show into a book, which she’d done before with This is Why You’re Single, a sketch-show-turned-humorous-advice-book.
Haun agreed, and after writing five sample chapters, the collaborators secured a book agent and in June 2018, they signed a book deal with Seal Press. Cinderella & The Glass Ceiling: And Other Feminist Fairy Tales is set for release on March 10.
“The cool thing about turning a sketch show into a book is you’ve already workshopped the material in front of hundreds of people prior to writing the book,” Haun says. “Not everything translates from the stage to the book, but you know whether the jokes work or not.”
Reauchean Williams has been with the sketch show since its UCB premiere. “A lot of the themes we discuss in the sketch show are pretty universal,” Reauchean Williams says. “We’re dealing with issues like female friendship, female empowerment, consent, beauty standards, the lack of intersectionality in feminism, cultural appropriation, disparity in socioeconomics.”
SketchFest 2020 is the first festival circuit for Feminist Fairy Tales, and all three performers say they’re excited to dip their toes into the Chicago comedy world.
As for whether they are anticipating a different reception at Sketchfest as opposed to how they’ve been received at UCB in New York and Los Angeles, “It depends on what’s going on in the world,” Reauchean Williams says.
“We performed the Sleeping Beauty sketch about consent days after the Kavanaugh hearing, and the temperature of the room was cold at best,” Lane elaborates. “It depends on what they’ve read in the news.” v