Cambridge, Mass – To celebrate the end of Christmas vacation, we went to the ART to see The Light Princess, a fairy tale by Scottish author George MacDonald.
I had never heard of the Light Princess, before I bought tickets to the ART’s family production. In fact, I had never heard of George MacDonald, even though he is one of Scotland’s best known authors, pioneer of children’s fantasy literature, and mentor and colleague of Lewis Carroll.
Well, now I know. (I also know that he was a Universalist, which makes me like him even more, but I digress.)
The Light Princess is about a princess (of course) who is the victim of a curse (of course) which deprives her of her gravity, both physical and emotional. This means that she laughs and floats her way through her life, with nary a care–nor a kilo–to weigh her down. To break the curse, she must find her gravity, presumably by falling in love (of course).
It’s definitely a fairy tale, with many of the requisite elements, like a happy ending. Thankfully, the prince is less of a savior and more of a partner-in-crime for our princess. The reason the princess “falls” for him is that he is the one person who appreciates her lightness, instead of trying to change it.
But it’s a rather unusual fairy tale for another reason. The central theme is not that love heals all. Rather, it is that the essence of our being is the ability to feel not only love, but also joy, sorrow, fear, and pain. The princess essentially chooses to give up a carefree existence for one of heartache and pain.
So the twins probably didn’t appreciate these deeper, rather Buddhist themes that are raised in The Light Princess. But they did love the play, as did their 2-year-old cousin. For a family show, the ART nailed it. The duration of the show is 70 minutes, so it’s not too long for little ones to sit through. And there is plenty to see: a princess who floats through the air and swims through the water; a lovely but wicked witch who hates music and concocts potions; and two incessantly silly wise men who are not wise at all. Plus: puppets that interact with the audience before the show starts, and actors that hang out afterwards for autographs and photos.
Apparently the ART does a holiday family show every year. We’ll definitely be back!