UFV student Annastasia Unger and writing partner Lauren Trotzuk’s brand-new musical Ugly offers a unique twist on the famous Cinderella fairytale: what if the stepsisters weren’t really all that bad? The show will run from October 23 to 25 at Monumental Theatre. General admission is $18, $15 for students and seniors, and $12 for children.
We asked Unger about the show, her plans for the future, and why having a possibly crazy fairy godmother in a show can only be a good thing.
What is it about the Cinderella story that you really wanted to see in a new light?
I think every version is different, but the Cinderella stepsisters maybe had the short end of the stick. Maybe Cinderella does not get the story completely right. She is not quite all there. She talks to mice, let’s be real! [laughs] And so it just kind of stemmed from this place where Lauren and I personally connected more with the stepsisters than we did with Cinderella.
So you didn’t connect with the character of Cinderella because you found her life too good to be true?
Yeah, but it’s more, I think. Everyone, especially girls, have a time in their lives where they think and feel like they aren’t going to be the princess type. Maybe just because you aren’t that princess type, it does not necessarily mean you deserve the label “ugly.” We have a song in the show called “After All,” whose whole premise is that maybe you are different, but maybe different isn’t ugly.
Is the ugly aspect in the show how the stepsisters treat Cinderella, or in their physical appearance?
It is interesting because the stepmother is the antagonist of the show. And she tries to control her children’s lives. There is a part in the show where the stepmother is talking to her daughters about Cinderella dancing with the prince, and she says that could have been them. The stepmother adds, “I wanted you to be beautiful and lovely like me, what did I get? Two ugly stepsisters.”
Is there going to be a fairy godmother in this version?
There is, but she may not be the conventional idea of what the fairy godmother is. She may or may not be crazy. Amara Gelaude is the one playing her, and she is actually a UFV psychology student, which is ironic since her character could be crazy!
Is the character of Cinderella different from the one we are accustomed to?
I want to say yes, but also no. I feel like we just really played up on the 1960s Disney cartoon version of Cinderella. She isn’t too bright to begin with, and we just expanded on that. Cinderella is really not all there. She really doesn’t have a lot of common sense. She is a very comedic role.
What was the hardest thing about putting the production together?
I think the fact that as many resources as we do have, there was also the fact we took on a lot more responsibilities than we should have. For me personally, I wrote the show, I was in the show, I co-directed and produced the show. I did everything from poster designs to promotion, to running the rehearsals, to being in the rehearsals, to memorizing my lines, to balancing six three-credit classes. On top of that, I am doing another show. So I have been going a little insane! It is probably time management that has been the biggest issue.
Is there anything you would like to tell readers that would draw them to come see your show?
Like I said, it came from a place where we understood where the stepsisters are coming from. We understand what it is like to not be the Cinderella of the story and it’s a really good lesson for anyone, but especially for young girls who are going through those formative years, and to just instill in them that just because they do not look like what they see on TV or elsewhere does not mean anything. That who they are does matter.
What are your future goals in theatre?
Monumental Theatre, which is the company producing Ugly, is actually my company. We have done one show so far before Ugly, and I would like to keep going and see where it goes. I am the managing artistic director and Lauren is my assistant managing director. Both of us have plans for at least four more musicals we are going to write. We have another one planned for next fall. We would like to keep growing Monumental Theatre. It’s a company I created to bring theatre to smaller cities like Abbotsford and bring Vancouver-style performances out this way.
Do you have any advice for people who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Honestly, just go for it! It is kind of a crazy story, but Monumental Theatre was created in a week. I kind of got this idea in my head that was sitting there for a while. I had this crazy idea that I should start a theatre company. A week later I had my business license, a website, and my first show planned. Honestly, I am a big proponent of following your dreams and if you have an idea, no matter how crazy it is, no matter how many people tell you it is not going to succeed, just go for it, because you never know what you can do until you do it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.